Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Hall's shaky road to debut ends with a solid start

Don't trust success. That's the lesson here. Taking the good life for granted is the best way to lose it. You could be a stock-market millionaire or a rookie hitting .300. Or you could be Richard Hall.

What a long, strange trip it's been for Richard Hall. It hasn't been anything like his quick-footed, straight-ahead running style. It's been nothing like he'd expected.

"Not in my wildest imagination," he said.

One night Hall was a high school senior, Ohio's best Class AAA player, in the state playoffs, bound for Ohio State the following fall. His future had wings.


Photos of Monday's game
Four years later, on Labor Day Monday, Hall was making his first college football start, for the University of Cincinnati. He ran for 100 yards for the first time since Wyoming High, where everyone knew his name.

Sports provides many lessons. Some are actually worthwhile. Patience, persistence, self-confidence. Reality. You could debate whether Richard Hall is a better player today than he was when he arrived at OSU in the fall of 2000. You can't argue that he's a better person for what has happened since.

"I didn't expect it to unfold this way," Hall said. "But you know, with life comes obstacles. Everything fell into my lap before. Now, I gotta reach out and grab it."

He gained 117 yards in just over a half of labor Monday. Bearcats coach Rick Minter pulled Hall in the third quarter, because Hall was tired and lost two fumbles.

No matter. The Bearcats' other tailbacks took turns trivializing the Pirates' defense, gaining 361 yards. A 5-foot-7 freshman named Derick Eddington ran for 138 yards, in the second half.

"We're not transitioning into a running team," Minter said. "That's what was there today."

It was there for Hall, in a way it hasn't been since he was at Wyoming. After UC's first touchdown drive, Hall came to the sideline and said, "I haven't seen holes like this since high school."

He had 46 of the 59 yards on the drive, and the 1-yard TD run. Hall ripped off runs of 16, 11, 9 and 9 yards. They came all the way from 1999.

"Crazy Legs" is what teammates call Hall, for the limp-leg move he offers would-be tacklers, and his quick feet through the hole. The only thing he did wrong Monday was lose the two fumbles.

"I feel so bad for the defense," Hall said. "I think I fumbled three times my entire high school career."

Hall knows he still gets lots of press because of what he did at Wyoming,

"People still give me the benefit of the doubt. But I haven't done anything in college."

High school heroes learn quickly the vagaries of fame. Hall's teammate Mike Wright, all-state as a senior at Purcell Marian, missed last season rehabbing a knee injury. Four minutes into the second half Monday, Wright sprained his ankle. Bad luck, bad decisions, fate. It's easy to get caught up in the rinse cycle of big-time athletics.

Richard Hall knows that now. He's taking nothing for granted. "The last four years," he said, "made me grow up."


E-mail: pdaugherty@enquirer.com

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