"So you were elected to the Pro Bowl as an alternate four times, right?"
"I was a four time alternate. I think it was three times first alternate and one time second alternate or something like that."
"Did you ever actually get to play in any?"
"I never got to play. I always joke with people. The years I got elected as an alternate they had some excellent centers. Dermontti Dawson," a seven time Pro Bowler in seven consecutive seasons from 1993-99. "He was always first choice, and he was an excellent center.
"Mark Stepnoski was there three years," time he spent with Houston in the AFC, "And he was voted ahead of me. I think even one year a guy named Keith Kartz…"
"Keith Kartz?" I say searching through my mind to recall the name.
"…Up in Denver," Courtney continues. "The first year I was a second alternate, Keith Kartz went, not Dermontti Dawson and one other guy, I think it was Bruce Matthews. I was like ok that is fine, those are two good centers.
"So then Keith Kartz leaves, Bruce Matthews switches to guard, I am like great Dermontti is there and he'll probably go over and I should be right there in that next spot. So then Mark Stepnoski comes from the Dallas Cowboys, he was a Pro Bowler in the NFC and he comes over to the AFC.
"I can't get a break here," Courtney says to my booming laughter in the background. "So yeah three or four years I was first alternate, it was Dermontti and Stepnoski and they are excellent centers so I had no qualms about that."
"Well I don't blame you, those guys were fantastic. So who was your favorite quarterback that you played with?"
"I have got to say Stan (Humphries). Even though Billy Joe Tolliver and I came in together, and he was a great old country boy, great stories and I had a great time with him. (John) Friesz (1990-91) was also a great quarterback, had a lot of fun with him. (Jim) McMahon (1989) was great, the old veteran and he would always tell you what was on his mind."
You can hear the reverence for Stan Humphries as Courtney calls him by his first name showing the true bond they had together.
"Stan was the one I really enjoyed playing with. He was just a consummate leader. When he stepped into the huddle, you knew he was a charge. He instilled that confidence in us. The only quarterback that has led San Diego to a Super Bowl, you cannot beat that. I mean (Dan) Fouts is great, but Stan is the one who led us to the Promised Land.
"That is definitely true and no one can argue that point. Do you think Drew Brees has that same quality and attitude, the aura?"
"I like Drew, obviously I have been here in Chicago and I have only been able to read the papers and I have seen him play a couple times. He seems like he has that steadiness about him.
"As an offensive lineman you really want a quarterback that's not going to get fazed to much by too many things. Going to step back there, let me get it done, don't worry about it. We had an interception, we had a fumble, we are going to comeback, just block for me and I will get the passes and we will complete them. He seems like he has that about him and as an offensive lineman that is really what you want to see back there."
"So what do you think of Vaughn Parker leading the next group of linemen for the Chargers? He once said that you were the veteran who led him when he was younger, now he is in that role."
"Vaughn Parker," Courtney says deviously. "We used to call him "the gatekeeper". Being at the tackle position, he was the guy who held the key to our fortune. If he didn't shut down those defensive ends… I think the amazing thing about Vaughn, and most people don't appreciate it, is switching from left tackle to right tackle and back again. He has done that his entire career.
"It is difficult to explain to people how difficult that is. Your sets are all off, your hand placement, your thinking. You are dealing with different types of athletes on either side. For Vaughn to be able to do that his entire career is an amazing feat. Not only a testament to his athleticism, but his character. He has always done it without complaining and he has always been the guy year in and year out to get the job done. He probably does not get the accolades he deserves."
"Come on now, no offensive lineman gets the credit or accolades he deserves," I am quick to chime in.
"Thank you, I love hearing that," Courtney says with a chuckle. "He doesn't get the accolades he deserves because he has never perfected the technique on one side because the Coach will say, ‘Vaughn we need you here at right tackle this year.' ‘Ok I will go to right.' ‘Ok we need you over at left tackle now.' ‘Ok, I will go to left.' And he can't perfect his technique."
"That's understandable. Why didn't you ever think about going into coaching?"
"I thought about it, but I always told people that if I had to teach someone like myself, I would probably kill him."
At that we both break out into laughter. It is hard to imagine him yelling at someone to get down in his stance as a Coach, or get mad, his personality just doesn't fit the mold for a yeller.
"I thought about it. That may be in the cards down the road. Right now, I am doing something, I enjoy it. If the right offer comes up, I would love to do it. At this point I am content with where I am at."
Tomorrow we conclude our chat with Courtney Hall and talk about the game today as well as his take on Junior Seau.
Denis Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via the following link:: Denis Savage
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Ex-Charger Center Courtney Hall (Part III)
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