'Iso' on fullback Korey Hall

An inside look at rookie fullback's first regular season game, how he helped Tracy White get ball in end zone pileup for Packers' only touchdown

There was a certain irony as the last two members of the Packers' offense waited in the tunnel for their name to be announced. Thirty-seven year old Brett Favre, a first-ballot, unanimous Hall of Fame quarterback preparing for his 17th season and 258th consecutive start (including playoffs) stood next to fullback Korey Hall, a fresh-faced 23-year old rookie out of Boise State who was poised -- mostly -- to make the first start of his NFL career.

Favre was the 33rd overall pick in 1991. Hall was the 191st overall pick this past April. Favre was a highly-touted college player at the game's most important position. Hall was a successful defensive player who, upon being drafted, was asked to switch sides of the ball to a position he had never played. Yet, here they stood on a crisp but sunny September afternoon, about to run out on to hallowed Lambeau Field.

"He just told me to go have fun out there," Hall said about Favre.

And as Hall sprinted out of the southeast corner of the end zone and arrived at the end of a long corridor of teammates and hand slaps, he could hear the cheers of 70,598 fans grow louder. Of course, that was because Favre had just started his jog -- hey, he's got to conserve his energy -- out of the tunnel. But for Hall, who's journey from sixth-round pick and training camp project to opening-day starter was complete, those wouldn't be the last cheers he'd hear that day.

He would take the field immediately as part of the opening kickoff unit. While Hall's ascension into the starting lineup could never have been anticipated when he was drafted last spring, his abilities on special teams' were definitely factored in. Considering the Packers have had one of the worst special teams' units over the past couple years, the athletic six-foot, 236-pounder was a welcome addition.

While backup fullback John Kuhn made the game's opening tackle, Hall had little time to diagnose the play as he immediately headed into the offensive huddle. His first series from scrimmage gave him a taste of everything he'll experience as an NFL fullback. On first down he burst into the line where he was knocked down by a smothering of Eagles defenders. On second down, he ran a pass route into the flat, but Favre threw incomplete downfield to Donald Driver. The next play, Hall stayed in on blitz protection as Favre failed to connect with Ruvell Martin. But it was here that Hall's day got interesting.

On Jon Ryan's punt on fourth-and-10 at Green Bay's 40-yard line, Eagles returner Greg Lewis muffed the punt at the 20-yard line when he was hit by Packer cornerback Jarrett Bush. Will Blackmon, Brady Poppinga and the Eagles Joelio Hanson tried to cover it up at the 19-yard line, but the ball squirted out toward the end zone as a horde of players from both teams chased after it. When Green Bay safety Atari Bigby couldn't get a handle on it at the 10-yard line, it bounced into the end zone. And when Philadelphia tight end Matt Schobel appeared ready to pull it in for a safety, Hall dived into him, allowing Packer teammate Tracy White to come over the top of him and gain possession of the football for the team's only touchdown in a 16-13 win.

"Tracy ended up getting it in the end, but I was kind of pulling the guy's hand back a little bit in the pile, it's a battle," Hall said. "I kind of had it and then I think me and Tracy were going after it, kind of fighting over it with each other. Then I was losing it and I tried to pull (Schobel) off it a little.

"Usually that stuff doesn't happen very often and we were pretty fortunate to get it … especially at the end."

The end, of course, was when Eagles' returner J.R. Reed had his team's second muff of the day, losing his handle on a Ryan punt with 1:09 left in the game and the score tied at 13-13. While Hall wasn't directly involved in the play and this miscue didn't result in a touchdown, Bush recovered the loose ball for the Packers and set up rookie Mason Crosby's 42-yard game-winning field goal four plays later.

While those two plays were the two most exciting of Hall's opening day experience, they book-ended a mostly solid outing by No. 35 on the punt team, punt return team, kickoff and kick return teams, and on offense. Against the Eagles blitzing defense, the Packers' spent much of their time in the shotgun formation, with Hall on the sideline. He was also out of the game when the Packers went with single-back, multiple receiver sets and in most third-down situations, when rookie DeShawn Wynn entered the game.

When he was in, he seemed assignment sure in pass protection and hit the hole hard on running plays. And while Packer running backs eeked out a mere 48 yards on 16 carries, seemingly unable to find the cutback lanes that the zone-blocking offense is known for, one of Brandon Jackson's better runs of the day -- a seven-yarder in the center-guard gap, came when he was following Hall, who stonewalled Philly middle linebacker Omar Gaither, a third-year player of nearly identical size, out of Tennessee.

Gaither was a frequent target of Hall's throughout the game. By the fourth quarter, that banging seemed to get under Gaither's skin, or at least his shoulder pads. After getting shoved to the outside on a three-yard gain by Jackson in the fourth quarter, Gaither got up from the ground and got in Hall's face. Guard Daryn Colledge, a former teammate of Hall's at Boise State quickly intervened as they walked back to their respective huddles.

"We were talking about the weather," Hall said with a smile, after dropping a very veteran-like response. "And I let him know a couple tricks I used to use when I played linebacker."

Kidding aside, Hall's performance was encouraging, as was his attitude. His mix of ability, smarts and tenacity will be needed for a Packer running game that could be in for a long season. He'll watch the film from Sunday's game and look for ways to improve. He's said as much, and that's what good players do. He'll expect to make the good plays, but beat himself up over the others -- like when he whiffed on blocking Eagles safety Quintin Mikell during a kickoff return. But at least one guy who knows a little something about fullbacks liked what he saw in Hall -- former Packer fullback William Henderson, who spent 11 seasons in the starting line-up and was on the sideline watching the action.

"He said I did some good things out there, which, as a rookie, you like to hear," Hall said. "And that kind of thing just motivates you to come out and try to get better.

"If someone would've asked me six months ago after our (43-42 overtime Fiesta) bowl win, I never would've expected to be in the situation I'm in now. I definitely had high expectations for myself of coming in and playing linebacker but I think it was a blessing in disguise for me to come here and play fullback."

One game does not a career make, but considering how far Hall has come, there is no reason to think that he won't be walking out of the Packers tunnel for many games to come.

W. Keith Roerdink is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at karoer@msn.com.


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