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That ended the '58 season. "After that, I really never had all my coordination," Hall says. In a three-team trade before the 1959 season. Hall was dealt to Pittsburgh and then on to the old Chicago Cardinals. The Cardinals cut him during the 1960 preseason. Hall moved on to Houston and helped the Oilers win the first AFL title in 1960. He is in the Houston record book twice, for the highest kickoff-return average for a season—31.2 yards—and also the longest return, a 104-yarder against the old New York Titans; the current Oiler media guide says Hall accomplished the latter feat "vs. The N.Y. Times." The one football memento Hall displays is his Oiler championship ring. After he suffered a broken shoulder in the '61 preseason, Houston dumped him. He did play that season as a flanker for the St. Louis Cardinals (for $16,000), catching three passes for 38 yards. "Enough is enough," Hall recalls thinking. "I proved I could play."
To himself, at least. Still, Ken Hall is one of the two greatest tragedies in football; Joe Don Looney is the other. Joe Don was entirely different, an absolutely undisciplined running back who was booted off the Oklahoma team by the normally mild-mannered Wilkinson in 1963, and had an undistinguished and controversial five-year career as a pro. Football people often get misty when they talk of Joe Don as most likely the finest football player ever to put on a suit. He blew it and wandered off to oblivion.
Hall has done just the opposite, moving ahead, doing well and believing deeply that yesterdays are gone. Says Gloria, "We don't talk about regrets."
What did Ken Hall do?
Mostly, Ken Hall is a case study in how you go about playing the cards you're dealt. He is, make no mistake, a happy guy who gets special pleasure in evening walks through San Marino with Gloria. He loves football; he thinks the young players are bigger, faster, stronger, better; he'd love sometime to shake hands with Sims, Walker, Dorsett.
Ken Hall is still quiet, and you can see in him a lot of the 16-year-old Sugar Land star who would jam his hands in his jeans at pep rallies and mumble, "If trying hard will win, we'll win." The other students would go berserk as he'd slouch on off. But he's at ease with himself. Hall makes it a point not to criticize Bryant and, in fact, expresses great admiration for him. Hall's attitude is: "Bryant says I'm his biggest mistake. There's honor in that."
And there's honor in Kenneth Hall. "So much has happened since high school that is so much more important," he says. "Like those two kids up there." He takes a long look at the photo on the living room wall of Chuck, now 24 and working in the city recreation department in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Mike, 21, attending Cuesta, a junior college in San Luis Obispo. Both were decent high school players at Redwood High School in Larkspur, Calif., near San Francisco, but that was it. Which doesn't bother Ken. He knows, better than anyone, that life isn't fair, but it does go on.
Which is why it was a proper but difficult step for him in 1970 to leave Imperial Sugar in Sugar Land for a better opportunity with another sugar company, McKeany-Flavell Company, Inc. in San Francisco. Says Hall of leaving Sugar Land, "We got in the car, picked Chuck up off the Little League field, and all of us cried all the way to Austin."
Last November he took still another new job with Sweetener Products in Vernon, Calif., a suburb of Los Angeles. On Hall's office wall there is this sign: MAN CANNOT DISCOVER NEW OCEANS UNLESS HE HAS THE COURAGE TO LOSE SIGHT OF THE SHORE.
Reflecting back on it all, Hall says now, "Maybe all this football stuff wasn't supposed to have happened perfectly for me. But there's a lot of positive in any negative situation. Negatives can be a wonderful thing. Really, there are no negatives."