While Borland said his decision is final, he said it was difficult to give up the sport in which he has excelled since growing up in southwestern Ohio.
“There's really nothing like it,” he told ESPN.com. “You can argue that it's not good for you, but you get a euphoric high playing it at the professional level. It's really incredible, and I love it. I'll miss it.”
Practices, the weight room grind, early morning drills – it’s not all glamorous, but there is a real reason most athletes stick with it as long as they can. Not only is the experience of being on the field irreplaceable, but the game can come to define an athlete in some ways.
There’s more to football players than just being football players, of course, but it’s also a big part of one’s life. From being recruited to playing in front of 100,000 fans on Saturday afternoons in Ohio Stadium, football is a significant part of those athletes lives, which is why this month’s Pro Day workout at Ohio State included not just high-level prospects like Michael Bennett and Devin Smith but specialists Kyle Clinton and Russell Doup and 2013 Buckeyes Drew Basil, Chris Fields and Marcus Hall.
For Hall, continuing to chase the NFL dream has been his goal ever since he was cut by the Indianapolis Colts last August.
“It’s just something I’ve been doing all my life,” Hall said. “I don’t know if you’ve been a journalist all your life, but it’s something that’s always been with you. It’s your thing. It’s definitely tough to let go, especially if you’re healthy. An injury can help you let go of the sport for your well-being, but when you’re healthy and feel like you can still play, it’s definitely hard.”
Hall believes he can still make it to the sport’s highest level, and he has a few reasons to believe so. After being one of the most heavily recruited players in the nation in the class of 2009, Hall started for two seasons at Ohio State, manning the right guard spot during the 2012 and ’13 campaigns as OSU went 12-0 the first year and 12-2 the second.
He also can look at the other three starters on the line with him those two years and see how they have made the transition. Left tackle Jack Mewhort became an immediate starter for the Indianapolis Colts, while center Corey Linsley did the same in Green Bay and established himself as a rising star at the position. Meanwhile, fellow guard Andrew Norwell moved into the Carolina Panthers lineup by the end of the season, and all got to make playoff appearances in 2014.
“That gives me confidence,” he said. “I played next to those guys for two years, so I know it’s not out of reach to say I can do it, if that makes any sense. All I can do is stay in shape and work hard every day and try to get back where I should be.”
Hall looks different now than he did in his time at OSU, having slimmed to 306 pounds. He works out in northern Columbus with a handful of fellow former Ohio State players, many of whom have played in the NFL like Doug Worthington, Thad Gibson and Beanie Wells.
“I feel like I’m in shape,” he said. “I push the prowler sled a lot, just to translate over to blocking, do a lot of stuff with rubber bands and I left a lot – different versions of squats, all types of stuff.
“You go above and beyond what is expected just to be in extra good shape in case you do get that call. I have a group of guys that I’m training with, so it’s pretty good support.”
Hall said NFL teams have stayed in touch since he was released by the Colts, but no offers have materialized as of yet. He has received interest from a few Canadian Football League teams as well but has been reticent to go north of the border until all NFL avenues have been explored.
“I am just trying to drain the NFL thing as long as I can before I commit to that, but I mean, this is kind of like the last straw here,” he said at Pro Day. “If I don’t get picked up pretty soon, I’ll sign with one of them.”
After all, football is what a football player does.