The heart of the matter would seem to be that Bryant only had eyes for John David Crow. That he might have somebody better than Crow on hand was a thought he wouldn't consider. Today, Bryant admits he should have put Crow at fullback and Hall at halfback. By asking Hall to do a lot of things he didn't know how to do—such as assume a three-point stance for the first time in his career—Bryant hopelessly confused him.
At the same time, Hall probably didn't burn enough in his gut. Halfback Ed Dudley, who was his roommate at A&M, says of his friend, "Kenneth was one of those easygoing kids who was never going to buck the system. Even when he was down and upset, I don't think it ever occurred to him to confront Bryant. If John David or I had had the same kind of problems he had, we'd have probably been kicking Coach Bryant's door in and demanding some kind of explanation, then maybe taken a punch at him. But that wasn't Kenneth's style. He would walk away from the situation before he ever did anything like that.
"I knew it wasn't going to work for him there at A&M and even went so far as to suggest he think about transferring to another school where he could get a chance to be the kind of football player I knew he was. That, or forget football and concentrate on the decathlon. There's no question in my mind that he could have made the Olympic team if he'd worked at it. He was that kind of athlete.
"I'm as great an admirer of Bear Bryant as any man who ever played for him," Dudley insists, "but he made a big mistake with Kenneth. In the first place, he should have never had him playing at fullback. He should have put John David at fullback and Hall at the halfback. That would have solved the defensive problem. In Bryant's scheme of things, the fullback automatically played linebacker, while the halfbacks played in the secondary. And John David could have done a good job at linebacker. But Bryant had his rules.
"It was a tragedy, really. Kenneth was such a gifted athlete. I saw him run a 9.9 100 in a pair of football shoes one afternoon. The problem was that he wasn't the kind of aggressive football player Bryant liked. Kenneth was never one who liked to hit someone for the sheer pleasure of hitting him. He realized it was a physical game, but I don't think he ever enjoyed that part of it."
But Pardee says, "You sure need to keep a player like Ken Hall on the team and not run him off. He was just too good a talent." Bryant agrees on both points. So Hall left A&M forever, a college bust.
What did Hall do?
"After my experience at A&M," says Hall, "I knew it was time to back up and regroup. But when you back up, the important thing is that you don't back up too far." So in 1957, armed with a $7,000 contract plus $700 for expenses to get there, Hall skipped what would have been his senior year at A&M and went to Canada to play for the Edmonton Eskimos. For the season, he rushed 48 times for 376 yards, for an average of 7.8 yards; caught nine passes for 292 more yards; punted 22 times for a 41.2-yard average; and scored four touchdowns, one on a 73-yard punt return. But it was only Canada.
In 1958 the Baltimore Colts drafted Hall in the 14th round. It was the Unitas era, and Hall seemed to have won a spot on the roster until the Giants' Sam Huff crunched him.
"It was a freak thing, really," Hall says. "We were playing an exhibition in Louisville. I was going up the middle on a simple dive play and tripped over the guard. I went to one knee and was trying to get up when Huff hit me on the back of the neck. It bent me over and drove my head between my knees. The sixth vertebra in my neck just collapsed. It was cracked in five places."