The NFL legend, who is also a father of three, tells PEOPLE his "family deserves it just as much as I do"

By Claudia Harmata
January 29, 2020 03:00 PM
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It’s no question: Alan Faneca’s time in the NFL is highly-regarded.

After being a first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1998 NFL Draft following his time at Louisiana State University, Faneca became a six-time All-Pro, a 2005 Super Bowl XL champion, and a nine-time Pro Bowler.

Throughout his 13-season career with the NFL — 10 of which were with the Steelers, two with the New York Jets, and one with the Arizona Cardinals — he played a total of 206 career games and started 201 of them.

Now, the former player is once again among the finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his fifth time being considered for the honor.

“It’s excited anxiousness. That’s about the best way to put it,” he tells PEOPLE. “You know, it’s exciting times. We’re hopeful. It would mean the world; it would be hard to put into words what it really means, like, getting in.”

“But it would be great and it’s exciting,” Alan adds.

Alan Faneca
Alan Faneca with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2002
| Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty

The best part would be sharing that acknowledgment with his family, he tells PEOPLE, as the potential Hall of Famer became a father near the end of his NFL career.

“My kids were all kind of born as I was finishing my career, so it’s a little bit like bring your kids to work day because the kids get to come down and join in the excitement,” Alan says. “They know something big is happening and they’re bouncing off the walls while we’re waiting for a knock or phone call. So, you know, in my mind, the family deserves it just as much as I do.”

Alan Faneca
Alan Faneca with the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game against the Carolina Panthers on December 17, 2006
| Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty

He and his wife of almost 20 years, Julie, share three children together — daughters Annabel, 14, and Penelope, 5, and an 8-year-old son, Burton.

Not only was Alan making his mark on the field, but the professional athlete was also sure to be present at home for his wife, who suffered from postpartum depression (PPD) after the births of all three of their children.

With their first, Annabel, Julie experienced some early trauma when their daughter was born five weeks early via cesarean section and was then taken to a separate city, away from the first-time mother, for treatment.

“It was a difficult experience. Annabel and I left and went to another city, because there they were the ones with the NICU [Neonatal Intensive Care Unit] that could handle her,” Alan explains. “Julie was kind of left behind; just not the experience you think about when you’re about to have a baby.”

“When they all did finally get back home, I experienced my first round of postpartum depression and I spoke to Alan and I told him, I was like, ‘I’m just not feeling myself,’ ” Julie adds.

The couple have now become outspoken advocates about recognizing and treating PPD, teaming up with Steven D’Achille — who founded the Alexis Joy D’Achille Foundation in memory of his wife who died in relation to the form of depression — to spread awareness about the need to support women postpartum.

Alan Faneca
Alan Faneca with wife Julie and their three children

“I think that’s important for women to understand. If they’re not feeling like themselves, that they should contact their medical doctor and talk to them,” Julie tells PEOPLE. “I had incredible fear, anxiety, responsibility after every child, like it was all my responsibility, which was silly. But I had trouble getting in control of that anxiety.”

With support from Alan — who openly communicated with her about the condition and made sure to “pick up the slack” when she was “trying to heal” — Julie was able to recover. The couple and D’Achille encourage parents and potential parents to visit postpartumdepression.com to educate themselves about the signs and symptoms.

Now, Julie is supporting her husband as they await the 48-person Selection Committee’s decision for this years’ Hall of Fame class, telling PEOPLE they’re “hopeful.”

“I think last year was the year where the children saw the statue and the bust,” Julie says. “And we were like, ‘Hey, one day daddy’s going to have a bust.’ ”

The five players who will be selected for the Class of 2020 Hall of Fame will be announced on Feb. 1, 2020, the day before Super Bowl LIV. Other finalists include one of Alan’s former teammates, Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu.