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Choirboy with a kick

Vols' Hall demands the most from himself and teammates

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Posted: Sunday January 03, 1999 04:08 PM

  Hall doesn't mind mixing it up with the rest of his teammates AP

By John Donovan, CNN/SI

TEMPE, Ariz. (CNN/SI) -- The great part about being a college placekicker is you can cruise while your teammates are crunching each other. You can do your best to avoid getting smacked around by a bunch of linebackers, and no one will say anything about it.

You can even miss a tackle in a game, and everybody just figures, "Whatever, that's OK. We weren't expecting you to actually make a play anyway."

Yeah, being a kicker is a wonderful life, if you want it that way.

Which Tennessee kicker Jeff Hall, a choirboy kicker with an attitude, most certainly doesn't.

"I enjoy the contact," says Hall, a senior from Winchester, Tenn. "If I went out there and I got clocked -- that would be so cool."

No, Hall is not your run-of-the-mill kicker. He's not a guy who wastes his time on the sidelines while his teammates are putting in all the hard work. No one recognizes that more than Hall's Tennessee brothers, who voted their clean-cut, Gospel-spouting kicker one of the team's four captains before the season.

A kicker for a captain? It's practically unheard of.

"When you have a kicker for a captain, obviously you don't have a prime-time guy who's on a pedestal," he says. "A lot of people out there like to be around me 'cause I'm intense."

There are defensive linemen in college football -- successful ones, too -- who aren't as dedicated as this 6-foot, 180-pounder with the blonde hair and blue eyes.

Hall is deadly serious about football, and has been for a long time. He still has a goalpost in his front yard back in Winchester, where he was a high school All-American who booted two 62-yard field goals. He's a four-year starter at Tennessee who coolly knocked through game-winners against both Syracuse and Florida this season.

He'll stand up to address his teammates whenever he feels the need, whether it's a spiritual message -- he's unabashedly open about his religious convictions, as the national media here for Tennessee's Monday night Fiesta Bowl game against Florida State has discovered -- or another kind of motivational one.

And he wants nothing to do with anyone who doesn't take football as seriously as he does.

"That makes me so mad," says Hall. "There are two things I really hate: People who don't play football with intensity or focus, and the other thing is people who seek out, who want to be in the limelight."

The self-professed "closet linebacker" has become the top scorer in Southeastern Conference football history this season, making 19 of his 24 field goal tries (including the 27-yarder against Syracuse and the 41-yarder against Florida in overtime) and all 47 of his extra points.

Still, despite his tough-guy image, there is one oddity about Hall: He admits to getting nervous before kicks. Especially big ones.

And Monday night, Hall could get a chance to kick the biggest field goal of his career and the biggest in the history of Tennessee football.

"You enjoy [a pressure-packed kick] after it's over," he said, "but before, truthfully, it's kind of a strain."

 
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