Matt Hall battles back from injury

They told Navy fullback Matt Hall when he was in high school that he was too small to play Division I-A football. Too slow. But what they forgot to measure is Hall's heart. This is a guy who underwent three different surgeries while playing at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, Fla. No problem. Because Matt Hall is always charging, always fighting.

No matter if he's written off, suffers a major knee injury or has to fight to win his starting job back.

"I've always been told I was undersized, that kind of just makes me more determined," said Hall, a senior. "I might not have been blessed with the most talent, but God blessed me with other things, and I always work hard."

Hall was in the midst of a strong junior season, rushing for 493 yards and six touchdowns, when he tore the anterior cruciate and medial cruciate ligaments in his left leg on his first carry against Notre Dame last November. He missed the rest of the season.

"It was pretty painful," said Hall, who previously tore his right MCL and meniscus at the Academy. "It was intense. The worst part was not playing against Notre Dame."

Adam Ballard replaced Hall and did the job. Ballard rushed for 167 yards and a touchdown in his first start against Temple and put up 192 yards and two touchdowns against rival Army two weeks later.

That set the stage for this: Hall and Ballard will fight for the starting job during preseason camp in what should be an intense battle. "Of course, I want to be the guy," said Hall, who is 5-foot-9, 217 pounds. "But whatever is best for the team. For me, this is going to be a lot of fun out there.

Hall said he is at 100 percent and feels no pain in his surgically repaired left knee. Most players take about eight months until they can cut. Hall was making moves in six.

Credit that to a good surgeon and Hall's determination. His grit and toughness is what defines most service academy football players. But here's the thing: Army and Air Force turned Hall down.

Navy coach Paul Johnson recruited him while at Division I-AA Georgia Southern and Hall followed him to Annapolis. Johnson must have seen something in Hall other coaches didn't. Like toughness, resiliency and, of course, heart.


Navy fullback Matt Hall, center, rushes into the end zone for a touchdown past Tulane saftey Joe Goosby, left, linebacker Brandon Spincer (5), and linebacker Anthony Cannon (11) during the first quarter Saturday, Nov. 5, 2005, in Annapolis, Md. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)

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