Courtney Hall Interview (Part II)

Courtney Hall takes time out of his busy schedule between studies to swap stories with me as we share some of the tougher experiences we have both had in our lives.

It sounds like he needed the break from working just as much as I did.

"Hey so why did you stop playing, you're pretty young."

"Yeah, I guess. I don't feel that young right now," Courtney says. He is 36 right now and we found out yesterday he enrolled in Rice when he was just 16.

"You played every game until that last season in 1996."

"I did. I pretty much played in every game. I think I missed one or something like that. I had a knee injury that last year, actually one I had during training camp and they said, ‘Well this is going to need surgery, so you can have surgery now or try and play.' I figured I could play through it."

Courtney missed just one game during that span, in 1994, the San Diego Chargers Super Bowl year. Then came 1996:

"I played the first two games and played fairly well. Was MVP of the first game, then in the second game played OK, and then it just got progressively worse. I had to sit out the rest of the season and then had to have surgery towards the end of the season. Figured out it was a pretty severe injury. My cartilage had been chipped away in three different spots on my knee. So I had to sit out a year and I had to have invasive surgery…"

"Just wasn't worth coming back?"

"Well I came back and actually tried out with the Broncos and made the last cut and they chose this other center, K.C. Jones over myself and I sat out that year. I was 30 years old.

"I told myself when I got into the league, that if I played ten years that was pretty much going to be it, because there were a few other things that I wanted to do. I wanted to test myself out in the business environment. The size of these people now, there was no way I was going to last. I was undersized anyway at 275-280 then you have these guys, average weight of a nose guard is 330."

"Exactly, and getting bigger every year," I say.

"Yeah exactly. Getting bigger every year, getting stronger and faster and I was just struggling to keep up with all these guys. I figured it was probably a good time; for my health, give it up and try and take this different route."

Then is became my turn to share my experiences.

"I did the same thing myself. While I was playing hockey, I had three concussions in about a year in a half, and I decided my brain was a little bit more important," I said grinning. "That was when I was living up in Canada."

Courtney quickly asks, "How did you like playing minor league hockey?"

"I loved it, it was my dream my whole life to play hockey and I was living in Canada, and I guess I was about 18 at the time and it was right before the Draft in fact," referring to the NHL Draft that year, "when I had my last concussion, and I never looked back. I just gave it up.

"I went through a depression for a while, lost some weight."

"For me that was just tough," Courtney says with a pause, "Saying hey I am going to retire. I did that, then I got cut and with the Contemporary Art Museum, I tried to do a bunch of different things, did a lot of charity activity and got more involved in my foundation. I realized that, hey that part of your life is over. I felt I was going through a mid-life crisis at 30.

"What am I going to do now? I am a football player," Courtney says with heart.

"I felt that way at 19, it was terrible," I say laughing now when I cried back then.

"I can imagine, you are 19," Courtney starts, "And this is something you worked for and put a lot of effort in, and now you have to say, ‘Hey, this is it I have got to move on with my life.'"

"It was tough, but I made it past it and grew from it. Now I am 30."

"You get through it and life goes on," Courtney adds with some hint of finality.

As we moved our discussion down this path I reflect to see we are much alike. We both have pushed ourselves after facing adversity and it is how we responded to the tougher times that make us who we are today.

Tomorrow we come back and talk about the career of Courtney Hall in the Pros, and talk some of the good times.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net or via the following link:: Denis Savage

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