Maurice Hall rushed for over 3,000 yards and scored 51 touchdowns during his senior year at Brookhaven High School in Columbus. The All-Ohio tailback capped his prep career with touchdown runs of 54 and 34 yards in the 2001 Big 33 Football Classic and in the process was selected the MVP of the game for the Ohio squad. Hall shared that prestigious honor in the game with Kevin Jones, who was chosen as the MVP of the game for the Pennsylvania team.
Jones has since gone on to a productive career at Virginia Tech, and now he's a member of the Detroit Lions. His future as a running back in the NFL couldn't be brighter. Hall, on the other hand, is just now emerging as the talent that he was expected to be when he first came to Ohio State.
Hall's 51-yard touchdown run against Michigan State with 25 seconds remaining in the game sealed the 32-19 victory against Spartans on the road and with the win, the Buckeyes evened their record at 3-3 in the Big Ten and became Bowl eligible.
"I knew once I broke (free) I had to go because I didn't want to hear anybody saying that I was getting caught," Hall said . "So that's all that I was thinking when I was running."
Hall, who finished the game with 11 carries for 83 yards, was an integral part of OSU's strong offensive showing in the fourth quarter that helped the Buckeyes pull out the win.
"I think when you get to that kind of game when it's tight like that, I think you have to have something extra and I thank God for the opportunity to allow me to be in there," he said. "I tried to do what I could do and help this team."
That long touchdown run by Hall, something commonplace in his prep career, is one thing that has basically eluded him during his career, and although it wasn't the biggest play in the victory against Michigan State, it was a mighty big play.
"Finally," Hall said. "It felt great. I thank God for allowing me to break and just really just kind of show my speed a little bit and score a touchdown."
Ohio State, leading 25-19 at the time, was simply looking to get a first down on the third-down play to keep the Spartans from getting one last crack at a victory.
"I saw all of the guys (lined up) inside and I knew I was going to have a chance to get it outside," Hall said. "So if I got it outside and I was able to get past that cornerback, then I knew I was going to be all right. I thank God for allowing me to be in there and seeing it and scoring a touchdown. I was just trying to run as fast as I could to get in there."
Ironically, Hall was a "spare part" almost a couple of weeks ago. "Spare part" was the actual term one reporter used when posing a question to Hall about how things have changed so drastically for him in such a short period of time.
"God works in mysterious ways, everybody says that," Hall said. "God always has a plan that you don't know about and you can't see it but it comes true in his time. So I'm thankful."
Through personal misfortune of Lydell Ross and the news of a recent injury to Antonio Pittman, Hall was in a position over the last few weeks to capitalize on playing time that, all of a sudden, became available to him. He's obviously taken advantage of the opportunity.
"You never know what's going to happen, and you definitely don't wish anything bad on anybody," he said, "but at the same time you have to make sure you're ready if the time comes."
There's no should-haves, would-haves or could-haves in regards to his career as far as Hall is concerned and he harbors no regrets or ill feelings about the way his career has panned out.
"I'm just thankful," Hall reiterated. "I thank God for everything that He's done. It's been hard not knowing exactly what was going to happen but God has His time and He works things out on His time. His time is always a perfect time and it's working out good for me."
Hall admitted that he came to Ohio State wanting to be a 1,000 yard rusher and hoping to put up big career-rushing numbers as well, but he's adjusted well to his arduous journey as Buckeye and is now making the very most of his career.
"You just got to stay focused on your dreams and never give up," Hall said. "Once you give up it's over for you anyway. So as long as you continue believing in yourself and believe that God's going to work it out, I don't think that He's going to let you down."
These last three weeks have helped Hall to validate his career as a Buckeye, not that it really needed to be anyway. Despite the disparaging attacks at various times throughout his career, levied by both the fans and media in general, on his ability as a running back, Hall kept his faith and never wavered.
"Again, I'm thankful. I didn't know how it was going to work out but I definitely can't complain and I definitely thank God for every opportunity that He's given me," Hall said. "You always have those rough times but it's all about handling adversity. I never thought about quitting. I got down on myself a couple of times but I never thought about quitting. I always believed in myself, and I think as long as you do that you will be all right."
Last season was particularly hard on Hall when the Buckeyes were in need of running back to pump some life into their offense.
"I would say a low point would be last year when I was hurt and I had to play through the season, but I really couldn't give 100 percent," said Hall who needed to have surgery in the off-season on his knees and sat out spring practice. "(Not being able to give 100 percent) was really a low point for me but I knew it worked out that way for a reason."
Hall said his knees had gotten accumulatively worse through wear-and-tear as the season went on.
"It was both of them, and it started early in the year, in camp actually, but it wasn't that bad," he said. "And it got worse as the season went on. But I still wanted to play and I still wanted to help the team."
After Purdue on the road, the Buckeyes will be back in Ohio Stadium for the final home game of the season and final home game of Hall's senior season against Michigan. It wasn't that long ago when he was the MVP of the Big 33 Classic in his last high school game, and soon he will competing in his last collegiate game.
"It's definitely going to be a special game. It's at home, it's senior day, it's my last year and so it's definitely going to be special game," Hall said. "For all of the seniors, it's going to be special for us, so we're going to go out there and play our best."
Being a Columbus kid, Hall understands, maybe even more than the other seniors, the emotional ties that players develop from playing in front of the home fans in Ohio Stadium.
"This is it. Everybody is watching and looking at us and looking at me so I'm just thankful that I can be in this position," he said. "I haven't pictured it yet but I probably will once that week comes. And I'll be thankful."
And the applause the Ohio State fans will give Hall at that time, will show him just how thankful they are that he is forever a Buckeye.