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"I don't remember anybody saying that."
Ken's mother, Imogene, says her son was "just average. He always wanted to be around home, and especially when it was roostin' time, he wanted to be home in his bed. Football was never talked about in our house. He felt if he played good, that was great, and if he didn't, he didn't. I enjoyed it when we won and hated it when we lost. That's about it. Kenneth was no more special to me because he picked up a football. Should he have been?"
Sugar Land never really thought he was special, either. Which is just the way Ken liked it. Former teammate Ernest Trevino, 48, who played wingback and still lives in Sugar Land, is asked if Hall ever gave him any advice. Says Trevino, "I was good enough to know what I was doing without him telling me."
Hall was so good, the people in Sugar Land got the blahs over him; he was supposed to do what he did. Against East Chambers his junior year, Hall produced a 21-0 lead the first three times he touched the ball. He ran back the kickoff for a score. He returned East Chambers' first punt for a score. He ran for a touchdown on Sugar Land's first play from scrimmage. Says Hightower, "It was no big deal to Sugar Land fans. It was natural. They expected it." "Actually," says Imogene, "the games got kind of boring with Kenneth scoring and scoring. But don't forget there had to be 10 other little boys who played with him. See, somebody had to fix it so he could go around the end."
But they didn't have to fix it a lot. Bobby Williams, now an assistant coach at Rice, played for rival Missouri City against Sugar Land. He says of Hall, "He could run, pass, catch, punt and kick. What he was was a big Doak Walker with 9.7 speed." How he got so good and so fast, nobody knows. His father, Curtis, could "run like a sage hen," says Imogene, so some of it may have been in the genes. Hall had an upright running style, and he'd roll his shoulders—a trick good running backs use to be more elusive. "Plus," says Hall, "I could maneuver a little."
Naturally, there are those who say the competition was inferior, and at times it was. But the facts are, hundreds of thousands of other players have encountered similar opposition over the years and not come close to Hall's achievements. Ken Hall was no fluke. "I hope all my records are broken," he says. "The point is, when you live in a small town with only about 100 kids in school, you really don't stop to consider that others might be interested in what you're doing."
In addition to his football heroics, Hall was a starter for the Gator basketball team and twice led Sugar Land to the state Class B track and field championship, scoring 38 points in the state meet in his sophomore year (a national high school record until it was broken in 1976 by Frank Pollard, now a Pittsburgh Steeler running back) and 36 in his junior year. He ran the 100 in 9.7, the 220 in 21.4, the 440 in 49 flat; he long-jumped 23 feet and put the shot 53'7"; he ran the anchor leg on the 440-yard relay; and occasionally he threw the discus and competed in the high jump.
In Hall's senior year, W.E. White, the superintendent of Sugar Land's schools, was convinced that with the proper training Hall could compete in the decathlon at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. "It was an idea that really fascinated me," Hall admits. "The only events I'd not done were the pole vault and the javelin and I felt I could learn them. Mr. White and I talked about it a great deal, and I was excited about the possibility."
A hamstring injury suffered in the spring of his senior year not only put the decathlon dream on the back burner, but also cost Sugar Land a third straight state track and field title.
"He pulled the muscle at the Bay City Relays and was on crutches for a while," says Hightower, "but he got well enough toward the end of the season to qualify for the state meet again. When we got to Austin, we wrapped the leg good and thought he'd be O.K. I remember before he was to run the 100, I told him to go over and take one of his throws in the shotput while he was still fresh. It wound up being the only throw he took, and it stood up for second place. In the 100, he was leading by almost 10 yards when he pulled the muscle again and wasn't able to finish. That was it for him."