Hall Still Slugging it out in Football

Former Irish offensive lineman Justin Hall has taken his love for football and made a career of it. Hall, now living in Sacramento, Calif., says he tried a number of careers after football, but his love for football drove him back to the game. Now 34, married and the father of a son, Hall says he couldn't be happier with how things have turned out for him.

Hall's path to Notre Dame started in Dallas, Texas. "I didn't grow up in one place," said Hall. "I moved around quite a bit. I went to a couple of different high schools before I moved to Texas. It wasn't like I was the hometown boy and had my sights set on going to state college. I was able to take a look at some different schools and make a decision from that."

Notre Dame was a school Hall didn't know much about, but he did have the pleasure to meet their head coach the summer before his senior year. "I didn't really know a whole lot about Notre Dame at the time," Hall admitted. "I had met Lou Holtz at a class reunion for Liverpool high school in Ohio. My folks and Lou Holtz went to the same high school. I met him the summer before my senior year and I kind of got to know a lot more about Notre Dame my senior year. I thought I'd take a trip there."

It didn't take Hall long to fall in love with Notre Dame. "When I took my recruiting trip there, they took us out on the field and it was covered in snow," said Hall. "We walked down to the other end and I looked up at Touchdown Jesus and I just knew that was the place for me. You could feel the electricity in the air and I just felt at home there."

Lou Holtz also made a lasting impression on Hall. "He's a no nonsense kind of guy," said Hall of Holtz. "He wasn't kissing anyone's behind to get them to go to school there. He made it sound like Notre Dame was an opportunity to take advantage of—not the other way around. He made it very clear that you would get an education first and football was second."

Hall was also able to play for one of the most well-respected offensive line coaches in the country in Joe Moore. Moore has always been known as quite a character, but also a coach who loved his players. Hall spoke fondly of Moore and the time he spent learning under Moore as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame.

"Well, none that I care to share," said Hall laughingly when asked if he had any classic Joe Moore stories he wanted to tell us. "He was a guy that you were afraid of and respected at the same time. You knew he'd make you a good football player and you respected him for that.

"Some guys might've felt that Joe picked on them, but they didn't want to be good football players in my opinion. He made you realize you had the ability and could be a good football player. He didn't do it for him--he did it to make you a great football player. Along with that, if you did do what he said, you had the chance to make a couple of million in the NFL."

Moore was also known as a guy who would not mince words on the field as a coach. Hall says that was just Moore and he quickly realized that he was tough on his players for a reason. "Coach Moore knew he was a jerk and we knew that, too. That didn't matter. Year in and year out he made us one of the best offensive lines in the country. I'm sure there were times where every lineman hated his guts at one time or another. But, as soon as that last day came, and you were able to have a beer with him after you graduated, it was a totally different story. You realize even more that he did it for you."

Hall's football career at Notre Dame never really took off due to injuries. "I was injured quite a bit—my time there. I went in my freshman year and was fighting for a starting position before I broke my ankle. I had a series of sprained ankles before I had back problems and then I had back surgery my junior year. I think being injured the whole time kind of limited me to reach my full potential."

While Hall was not drafted in the NFL, he did sign a free agent contract with Green Bay Packers—an experience he'll always cherish. "I was with them for the preseason. I made it through four or five preseason games and got cut and I never got picked up again.

"I learned a lot. I got the experience of going against one of the best defensive ends to ever play the game in Reggie White. It was an eye-opening experience. It was something I've always dreamed of—playing in the NFL."

"He taught you a thing or two, that's for sure," said Hall of playing against Reggie White. "Even though he was a little older, he was still really fast. He'd just blow by me at times. He was just the nicest guy. He was a pretty unique character."

With his NFL career over, Hall said he searched and searched for the right career, but football kept calling. "After I left Green Bay, I tried sales, I tried management and I really couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. My Dad said ‘why don't you try coaching,' and I did. My first job was at a college in Ohio. I started coaching football and I've been doing it ever since."

Hall also had the opportunity with work closely with Joe Moore as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame early in his coaching career. "I went back there in 1996 as a graduate assistant and I was able to coach with Joe for a year. I'll tell you, it was a lot better coaching with him than it was playing for him," said Hall laughingly. "He didn't yell as much at you as a coach. I learned so much from him in that year."

So where is Justin Hall now? "I'm coaching high school football," said Hall. "This is my seventh year coaching high school football. I'm in Sacramento at a private Jesuit school. I'm coaching the offensive line, special teams and the linebackers."

"My wife Jen and I have an 18-month old son named Jacob," Hall said when asked if he has a family.

Where will Jacob be playing football in college? "Hopefully Notre Dame because when my wife was pregnant with him, I used to sing the Notre Dame fight song to him. We love Notre Dame. We even have a Scottish terrier named Gipper."

"I'd like to get back for a football game but it's kind of hard when I'm coaching myself," said Hall. "Our games are normally on Saturdays because we don't have any lights at our stadium."

Hall seems thrilled about his family and about coaching football. He's says he's found his calling in life, and that the Notre Dame experience is something he'll always remember. "It was fun. I had the greatest experience there and I wouldn't trade it for anything. I met so many great people and it was a great time to be at Notre Dame."

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