Army, with nothing to lose, was less skeptical and someone saw to it that Hall was sent an application. Up to that point, Hall says, he had always thought that Army was "a bunch of soldiers who got together and formed a team" and that West Point was "someplace like the back side of heaven, meant for a special kind of people." Not him. He threw the forms away. His teachers and his friends concurred in his judgment. Only his mother and his coach persisted. "I was very undisciplined," says Hall. "I wasn't the kind of guy that teachers like to teach."
In point of fact, his math teacher told him he would never make it. And the friends who had helped him with his schoolwork for years laughed at the idea of Hall at West Point. "They all figured I was too happy-go-lucky," he says, grinning happy-go-luckily. "But I'm also very hardheaded. The more people laughed at me the more it made me want to do it."
The next year Hall was at Fort Belvoir, playing football, living in Army barracks, learning how to apply himself, how to pass the college boards and how to deal with military discipline and military haircuts. "For about six months the Army and I didn't get along at all. I was a mama's boy, homespun and green," he says.
By the time he reached West Point the following summer, the worst of his adjustment was over and he had added some needed weight to his lanky frame. He got into four games as a plebe and immediately became something of a hero. His first call came in a 38-14 lost cause against Vanderbilt. The Commodores were leading 38-6 late in the third quarter and all Leamon did was hit with seven of his first eight passes and put a touchdown on the scoreboard.
The next game, against Air Force, he moved the team 64 yards into field-goal range. The field goal was good and Army won the game 17-16. "After that," says Homer Smith, "people expected something sensational every time Leamon went into a game. It wasn't going to happen that way. I told him after the Vanderbilt game that he had seen a six-man pass defense and that was the last time he would ever see it. And it was."
Last year Smith gave the starting job in his wishbone offense to senior Quarterback Scott Gillogly. But just before the fourth game, against Stanford, he switched Gillogly to split end and started Hall at quarterback. Army lost 67-14. Gillogly broke his collarbone and was out until the last game of the season. And Hall, starting every game after that in an offense ill-suited to his talents, completed 93 passes for 1,107 yards.
"It was difficult for him," says Smith. "I've seen him when he was all dirty and sore and sometimes bloody. But he's a rugged character now. You grow up tough if you're the quarterback in a wishbone offense."
This year Army's offense, a pro set, is tailored to Hall's abilities. "I like the wishbone," Hall says, "and if I was a coach I would really like to coach the wishbone. But I am not gifted with the kind of talents that it takes to run it."
Hall is gifted not only with a fine arm and a talent for command but, this year, with an excellent receiver in Brundidge, the 6'4", 220-pound sophomore from Oviedo, Fla., which is about seven miles as the crow flies from Apopka and less than half its size. Brundidge was a sophomore at Oviedo when Hall was a senior at Apopka Memorial, and when the two teams met that season, a member of Brundidge's team suggested that Oviedo players contribute to a pot that would go to anyone who could put Leamon out of the game.
"It was a good idea," says Clennie, "but I didn't participate. I didn't play that way, to hurt somebody. He was such a good quarterback. He threw for so many touchdowns, I can't even remember how many. We couldn't have hurt him very much."