Hicks took part in Ohio State’s famous teardown of the “M” Club banner before the 1973 version of the game, but Morris joked that Hicks was now off the hook after last year when Marcus Hall left the Michigan Stadium field with two middle fingers pointed to the sky.
Little did Morris know that the man he was referring to was in the audience.
You’re always remembered for what you do in The Game between Ohio State and Michigan.
As Marcus Hall has found out – and was reminded of Tuesday night – that’s especially true when you stage the exit he did a year ago.
“It’s definitely big to see something bigger than yourself as a player, to see the rivalry play out, and the fans appreciate one of my wrongdoings in The Game,” Hall told BuckeyeSports.com. “The way it played out, like that guy said, it’s replacing ripping down the banner.”
It wasn’t sportsmanship, but it was the rivalry distilled into one action – pure emotion and intensity, the kind of stuff that will be in highlight videos about The Game for the next 100 years.
“When it happened I was like what do you expect?” Ohio State senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett said. “We watched this highlight video of Ohio State-Team Up North fights the past week with ‘It’s Time for War’ playing the whole time.”
A year later, Hall knows he can’t escape the thing that made him famous. Before the incident, which came when Dontre Wilson became tangled up with multiple Michigan players after a kickoff, Hall was known to Ohio State fans as a two-year starter at right guard, a highly rated player out of Cleveland Glenville who had become one of the rocks of the team on the offensive line.
By the end of the short melee, he was known across the nation, and he had etched his name in rivalry lore forever.
With a year to ponder over and live with those actions that have spawned T-shirts and numerous jokes, Hall still has a lot of thoughts on the situation. When speaking Tuesday night, Hall outlined why he did what he did – he was simply supporting a teammate who he believed was in need.
“I’ve never told anybody this, but honestly, I just thought it was a bench-clearing altercation, and I didn’t want to be that guy that didn’t stand up for his teammates,” Hall told BuckeyeSports.com. “A lot of people probably never heard that side of it, and it was wrong. But it just happened.
“If I had to think about it over again, it wouldn’t happen again, but if it happened the same way it happened, it probably would have happened the same way.”
And when he was one of three players – two Buckeyes, Hall and Wilson, as well as Michigan reserve linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone – to be ejected from such an important game, Hall admits he lost his cool. Before his two-finger salute, he threw his helmet to the ground and kicked a bench, the emotion of the event taking over.
“It wasn’t planned,” he said. “It happened in two seconds. Two seconds. The heat of the moment…”
It’s a double-edged sword, Hall admits. On the one hand, he knows he produced one of the iconic images of the rivalry, and the support from Ohio State fans since it happened has meant a lot to him.
“When I have events and meet the fans, they just tell me how cool it was or how amusing it was and I can appreciate that because I love the fans,” he said. “They support us all the time and they’re the best in the country. I always feel like that. It just feels – I’m just honored even though it was a negative situation, I’m just honored to be a part of the rivalry.”
On the other hand, his actions cost him a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship Game last year vs. Michigan State. Hall has made an effort to clear his name among college football fans who assume that he’s a bad guy for his actions in one minute in which he lost his head. He had a preseason stint with the Colts but is no longer on an NFL roster, and it's fair to wonder if being being the guy that flipped off Michigan Stadium is the tiebreaker that’s keeping him off an NFL roster.
“I honestly would say I wouldn’t do it again,” he said. “It’s cool being a part of the history books and everything, but yeah … I wouldn’t do it again. But I mean, it happened, so let’s make a positive thing about it.”
Of course, Hall has become a person of interest this week as the Buckeyes and Wolverines are set to renew acquaintances Saturday in the 111th version of The Game. Hall will be signing autographs at Polaris mall in Columbus today and Tuttle Mall on Friday, and come Saturday, he’ll be in a new role – watching the Michigan game just like so many others.
“This week is honestly weird because the past five years, I’m used to preparing for Michigan, getting all hyped and everything,” he said. “Now it’s kind of like, you know, you’re not with the team anymore. It’s just weird, and I’m just gonna watch the game.”