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, he was back home in Sugar Land, working as a tour guide for the Imperial Sugar Company. Says Hall, "It was a good job."
Wrong. It was a lousy job. But 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. "I've found that people who live in the past are unhappy with the present," he says. "I love the present." 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.
Kempner Stadium, the field that Hall made sacrosanct, is still there. Hall's coach at Sugar Land, L.V. (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."
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 offside. So Hall immediately called the same play, only as a sweep left, and went 85 yards for a touchdown.
In that game against Houston Lutheran, Hall also scored 49 points to beat by one the national single-game record set by Dick Todd of Crowell, Texas, in 1934. He scored seven touchdowns, seven extra points, returned a kickoff 64 yards, ran back a pass interception 21 yards, returned a punt for 82—and wound up with 520 yards rushing. And he doesn't have the foggiest recollection of it. "There were a lot of games I only played a quarter," says Hall. "I remember one game where I never got tackled. I carried the ball, let's see, maybe seven plays altogether. Or did I dream that?"
His question is legitimate. With legends, the line between fact and fiction is thin. Hightower, for example, swears that Hall didn't even come out for football his freshman year (1950) until after Sugar Land had lost five straight and the school superintendent made an urgent appeal. With Hall on the scene, Hightower says, the Gators won the last four games by a combined score of 131-7, and Hall scored 58 points. Hall's recollection is that he was on the team the whole year, but it wasn't until the sixth game of the season, against district rival Santa Fe, that the Gators finally won, 53-0. Previously, Hall recalls shakily, he mostly passed, but "nobody was open so I started running, and I thought, Hey, this ain't so bad. Why not do it more?" And sitting there in San Marino, with a Bud and a cigarette and the glasses he now wears for the fine print, Hall allows himself a tiny smile.
The legend is that Hall led his team to a 37-1-1 record (the loss being a game he missed with a neck injury) and three straight regional championships, then the ultimate honor for B-level football in Texas. The truth seems to be that Hall led his team to a 37-6-1 record and three regional titles in four years. Either way, pretty good.