Interview and Words by Ana L. Roman
Photography Manny Espinoza
It’s 9:30 AM on a Monday and Athletes for Vets Founder and Former NFL Player Dereck Faulkner is playing dress up with Carmel’s own Jim Ockert, owner of the gallant and dashing staple that is KHAKI’s of Carmel. Now that the AT&T Pro Am 2016 is in full swing, residents are eager to get a new supply of menswear essentials in motion. With signature Carmel style, Ockert serves up a menu of perfectly bold colors, complimenting Faulkner’s tall stature. With a gray blazer layered atop a pink-checkered dress shirt and electric blue cardigan vest, Ockert and Faulkner have seemingly achieved the perfect pairing of clean lines and a classic silhouette: all with a contemporary flair. Ockert has won this round, styling Faulkner as every bit the athlete and philanthropist in his ultimate element.
All in all, it’s befitting that the Pro Am falls into Faulkner’s busy agenda. The former NFL Football star claims he’s an old school guy, citing Fred Couples as one of his all time favorite players. However, Faulkner is not only focused on personal style and fashion, but on furthering his vision for Athletes for Vets. As the son of a Captain and a Major, he knows the value of polished style and the benefits that come with it. Whether it’s out in the field or fulfilling the duties that come with running a non-profit, he knows something as simple as a smart V-neck paired with polished shoes can make the biggest impact. For Faulkner, this is not just philanthropy but a way of life. Whether it’s football, golf, fashion, or personal style, Faulkner reminds us all that we share one common goal: to make a positive impact on others.
What was the motivation or single leading factor that lead you to founding Athletes for Vets?
My wish is to fill the responsibility of philanthropy and community. As a former athlete with a visible platform, also as a human being, I know it’s our responsibility to help others. Anyone who’s granted an opportunity in the spotlight, or if they have the right platform to create change, as an athlete or any type of celebrity, should help and provide to others.
As the proud of son of a Captain and your mother a Major, would you say that getting dressed up is like a ritual, like getting ready for battle day to day?
Definitely. My parents always instilled the values of looking clean and sharp. Everything had to be ironed. My Grandfather, a Vietnam Veteran, insisted on having shiny, polished shoes. If I have business meetings or anything where I’m presenting myself or representing another organization, I try to look as sharp as possible with a nice suit, a lot like military officers do. It really makes you feel better about yourself and you’re better prepared to tackle and take on the world.
What’s one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned from building an honorable non-profit from the ground up?
The most important lesson I learned, is that no matter what you do, whether it’s catching a 50-yard touch down or starting a non-profit, it all takes blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of hard work. It also requires a lot of team work. All in all, it’s not just me, it’s the strength of your team and its members. I also acquired a great advisory board and have amazing mentors who I’ve mirrored and learned from. The most important lesson is putting your all into it and being able to work as a team.
How would you describe your own personal style?
(Laughs) Well, I have this special category I call “Space Jam.” It’s for men 6’3 or 6’4 and over 200 pounds. Regardless I just love to mix and match, I love to mix colors and different brands whether it’s high-end or low-end. I think being tall also gives me a defined look. My personal style is also trendy but classic, and very professional. What’s important is that I know my limitations. I mean I can’t dress all the way like Kanye!
Who’s had a major influence on your personal style?
Well, there are two people. First, my mother. As an interior designer she has a great eye for decor, shopping for pieces, and style. As for professional style and who I look up to, it’s Larry Fitzgerald who played for the Arizona Cardinals. His sense of style is something I’ve always admired. He’s always clean after games, even at news conferences. He can dress trendy, but still has the best tailored suits.
What do you love most about Pebble Beach, Carmel, and the Peninsula in total?
I love the people. The people of Carmel and Pebble Beach really give off a great energy the minute you step foot into these places. There’s so much positive energy and it’s very welcoming. There’s just that West Coast feel up here of being laid back but still being able to get things done. This is the third year I’ve participated in the Pro Am and it’s getting bigger, and I’m feeling more embraced by it. From that standpoint, Carmel and Pebble Beach have been great hosts to me and my organization. I really look forward to doing more work here in the future.
What are the menswear essentials you could never live without?
For one, I’m just big on shoes. I’m all about combining and layering shirts and button downs. I can’t live without cardigans and V-necks. Also, a nice watch because it adds and blends nicely with shoes.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned from giving back to others?
It’s the gratification I feel from seeing a smile on someone’s face. It doesn’t matter if you impact one person or a thousand people, the important thing is that you’re impacting somebody. Whenever I go into these Vet Hospitals I tell myself, If I can talk to just one Veteran or a thousand Veterans I know that I’m walking out of here with the hopes that at least I helped somebody.
Photography at Affina Food & Wine in Carmel, CA