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Hall ultimately wandered off to play pro football in Canada with the Edmonton Eskimos in 1957 and then returned for brief stints with the NFL and the AFL and the NFL again.
By 1962, Ken Hall was back home in Sugar Land, working as a tour guide for the Imperial Sugar Company, which owned a lot of the town, not to mention the hearts and souls of its inhabitants. Says Hall, "It was a good job."
Wrong. It was a lousy job. But Ken Hall doesn't complain about anything. Almost three decades after his glory days, Hall's attitude toward that period is perfect: He simply doesn't think about it. He doesn't talk about it with friends. He can't recall the games, much less specific plays. He has nary a single picture or trophy on display in his home to document his high school prowess. "All that was 30 years ago," he says. "I've found that people who live in the past are unhappy with the present. I love the present." Says Gloria, "The best days of our lives are these days." Unlike so many, Hall has been busy through the years proving that there is life—yes, even a meaningful life—after football.
And he isn't the least bit miffed to be a legend largely forgotten. Standing alongside the Georgia practice field the other day, Herschel Walker—who rushed for 3,167 yards in 1979 as a high schooler in Wrightsville, Ga. to become No. 4 on the alltime single-season rushing list (remember, Hall is first and second) and who had 32 100-yard games in his high school career, second on the national list (remember, Hall is first)—was asked if he knew of Ken Hall. "What did he do?" Herschel said.
What did he do?
Sugar Land used to be the textbook example of an idyllic little town where high school football was king, men were men and women were women—and all knew their place. Now, sadly, Houston is just about to overrun Sugar Land. Already, the surrounding developments are called Sugar Lakes and Quail Valley, and the men eat quiche. Because folks in Sugar Land always knew what God intended, women weren't allowed in the local high school quarterback club. Five years ago, the doors were opened to women. "That ruined it for most of us," says T.C. Rozelle, who years ago worked with Hall at the sugar company.
Nothing much ever happened in Sugar Land, except Ken Hall. Runner-up was the flood of 1913, followed by the flood of 1929. Nobody famous, except Ken Hall, ever came out of Sugar Land. Maybe the name of the town always made it hard to take seriously. Whatever, high school football was its alpha and omega.
Kempner Stadium, the field that Hall made sacrosanct, is still there. Dugan Hightower stood on the 50-yard line a few weeks ago and said, "This field still shakes. Lord, I'd give anything to see him out here one more time." His eyes glazed at the prospect. It's the classic high school field—the light poles block the vision of fans, are hazards to the players and produce inferior illumination.
As Hightower recalled one incredible Hall feat after another, he kept pointing here and there, showing his visitor where it had all happened. Like the game against Orchard High when Hall took the first snap and went 80 yards on a sweep right for a touchdown. Oops. Sugar Land's Gators were offsides. So Hall immediately called the same play, only as a sweep left, and went 85 yards for a touchdown. "Just as soon as he scored," Hightower said, "I noticed somebody calling time out. Nobody was hurt and so I asked the official, 'What's the time-out for?' And he said, 'I called it for me, dammit. That No. 31 of yours is running me to death.' "
Ah, yes, 31 in your program (he picked the number because it was the reverse of 13, the day he was born in December 1935 in Madisonville, Texas) and first in your heart. "Kenneth would be standing still," Hightower said. "First step he was full speed. I mean, he would take off on that sweep like a deer buck that you surprise in the woods. He could hunt that open field better than anybody. And when he passed by those linebackers and raised up, he was flyin'. He might could leave them all a standin' there."