When Antonio Hall, whose exploits at Canton (Ohio) McKinley High made him the most sought-after offensive lineman in the country, visited Kentucky in January 2000, the first thing he did when he got to the campus was head to the School of Fine Arts. There he met with members of the music faculty, including renowned tenor Everett McCorvey, for almost two hours, discussing Kentucky's music program and facilities. Only afterward did Hall turn his attention to Wildcats football. Satisfied with what the school had to offer on both fronts, Hall enrolled, and it's hard to tell who is happier that he did: McCorvey, who is now Hall's voice professor, or football coach Guy Morriss. "I could tell right off that he was a very special kid" says McCorvey.
Like football prowess—former Detroit Lions coach Wayne Fontes is Hall's cousin—musical ability runs in the family. His mother, Venus Ahmed, a social worker, plays the sax as a hobby, and his father, Nick Spondyl, a history and social studies teacher, plays guitar in the Hellenic Stars, a sort of Mediterranean rock fusion act that Hall likens to a Greek Santana. (The Hellenic Stars are laying down tracks for a CD to be released in early 2002, and Hall, who has his mother's maiden name, sings on a handful of them.) Their only child got his start as a singer with the Shiloh Baptist Church choir in Canton when he was four, and by the time he was a sophomore at McKinley, he knew he wanted to study music, so he took up the piano. Now, as a music education major, you'll find him singing anything from a La Boh�me aria to a tune from the musical Showboat to one of the original R&B numbers he has composed.
Hall performs with the school choir in the off-season and also does gigs with a local choir, the Lexington Singers—but his roommates frequently get a sneak preview when he doesn't have time to make it to a practice room. "I do sing in the shower," he says. "But my roommates aren't really big fans of opera."
The 6'5", 302-pound Hall considers himself lucky that his parents exposed him to music at such an early age. While it's a good bet that his future includes a pro football career, what he really wants to do is coach the game and teach music to children who don't normally have the opportunity he did. "Kids in the inner city don't get the chance to appreciate the benefits music holds, and they should," he says. "That's a big thing to me."
For the time being, though, Hall will go on being one of the busiest students on campus. He spends about 90 minutes a day playing the piano and an hour a day singing, while still working to excel on the field. He started every game at right tackle last year and was named a freshman All-America. In last Saturday's 28-20 win over Ball State, Hall had the best game of his career. He racked up 10 knockdowns and didn't permit so much as a quarterback hurry while anchoring a line that opened the holes for running back Chad Scot, who rushed for 119 yards on 10 carries—the kind of numbers that are music to Hall's ears.