- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When Hall's records are recited, High-tower points out, one of the most impressive is always overlooked. "In four years, he scored 83 points in the state track meet. I don't think you're going to be able to find anyone who has ever come close to that."
Around Sugar Land in Hall's playing days, football was definitely Topic A when the men would gather at the Sugar Land Pharmacy and the barbershop next door. High-tower recalls that when he arrived in town to be an assistant to the head coach, the late Chuzzy Jenkins, he went to his first quarterback club meeting and found the initial order of business was chartering buses for the playoffs. That seemed a bit premature to Hightower because not a single game had been played. "You are all crazy," he said. To which a club member stood up and said, "At the end of the season, you and Chuzzy are gonna be on a bus one way or the other." They were, winning their third straight regional in 1953, Hall's senior year.
Rozelle and Herb Shelton, another longtime fan, were sitting around High-tower's kitchen table recently, laughing, drinking coffee and telling lies, and Shelton said, "We knew way back then we were really enjoying ourselves but we also know Kenneth's greatness grows over the years."
Truth be told, Hall is being forgotten rapidly. In 1959 Sugar Land High was closed by that breed of wrong-thinkers who infest the country and who think taking a little high school away from a proud little town and making one big high school for a lot of towns improves education. The current coach at the consolidated high, John Foster Dulles H.S. in Stafford, is Ronnie Bell. "I just can't understand how good Hall must have been," he says. "But there are probably not a lot of people who even remember now."
Correct. Further, there is almost nothing around Sugar Land to perpetuate the memory of the finest high school player ever to buckle a chin strap. The newspaper office burned down, destroying many of the accounts and records. The current local sports editor has never heard of Ken Hall. The trophies are, well, who knows. There are none at the high school. High-tower thinks he has a few but can't put his hands on them. Gloria says there may be some out in the garage, but she would have no idea where to look. There are only a few photographs, a couple of films, no plaques.
The new football stadium at Dulles High is named after Edward Mercer, a former school superintendent. Leslie A. Wheeler Jr. Fieldhouse is named for a former school board president. There is a John Frankie Field, named after a former football player and head basketball coach at Rice. The airport is Don Hull Airport, for the man who built it. Around old Sugar Land High, now Lakeview Elementary School, with its glorious oak and pecan trees, there is a tree dedicated to M.R. Wood, a former school board president. There is a PTA tree dedicated to G.D. Ulrich. There is no Kenneth Hall tree. In 1980, it was proposed to the city council that a new street be named Ken Hall Thoroughfare. Ultimately, the city fathers named it Jess R. Pirtle Boulevard, in honor of a local civil engineer, who, Hightower says, "did lots of things for the town."
What did Ken Hall do?
Naturally, every college that pumped up a football wanted him. He chose Texas A&M because, among other reasons, it was close. That, as it turned out, was the only good thing about A&M for Ken Hall.
"When he showed up in College Station." says Jack Pardee, the former NFL All-Pro and head coach who was an All-America fullback and linebacker at Texas A&M when Hall went there, "I looked at a guy that big [6'1", 205 pounds], with that speed and those motor skills, and I figured I had just been demoted to second string. He was the prototype back." A classmate of Hall's was Halfback John David Crow, who would win the Heisman trophy in 1957. "Lord knows I love Coach Bryant to death," Crow says, "but I'll say this, if Kenneth Hall had gone to play under someone like Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, the world would never have heard much about John David Crow." Says Bryant of his ill-fated relationship with Hall, "I guess I should have hugged him."
Pardee, now a vice-president in marketing for the Runnels Mud Company, an oil drilling business in Midland, Texas, suggests that Hall's world-class failure at A&M was "because Coach Bryant believed that you played defense first and then found a position in the offense. So Ken Hall had his skills reversed." Almost inexplicably, Bryant shuffled Hall, always a tailback, to fullback. Never mind that Hall had never been taught how to block. Bryant was irate when Hall couldn't block. Then Bryant made Hall a linebacker (they played both ways in those days), though he had always played defensive back in high school. Then Bryant got mad when Hall got married to Gloria in his sophomore year. For some reason he didn't care so much that John David also was married. Says Pardee, "Hall wasn't quite mean enough for Coach Bryant."