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  • He came into the league as a brash young shutdown corner and left as a veteran leader and elder statesman. One of the NFL’s most interesting players on the state of the game, aging in the NFL, why veterans don’t age like they used to, playing on the Michael Vick Falcons, player safety for his football-loving kids, and his retirement plans: basically, do it all
By Gary Gramling
December 05, 2018

Quarterbacks are supposed to last, but DeAngelo Hall was an exception among defensive backs. He broke into the NFL in 2004, the same year as Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, and almost lasted as long as the QBs. Hall’s career spanned 14 seasons and included three Pro Bowls and a four-interception game. Over that time, he evolved from brash, young shutdown corner to wise elder statesman guiding Washington’s secondary. One of the most interesting (and talkative) players in the league, the 35-year-old Hall now embarks on a career in media. And tech. Maybe front-office work. Coaching too?

In an interview earlier this season, Hall discussed his start with the Michael Vick Falcons, aging gracefully in the NFL, why stars need to be more vocal on players’ issues, player safety in light of his football-loving kids, and the current state of the game.

GRAMLING: What went into your decision to retire?
HALL: It just kind of felt like the right time to go. My mentality has always been: Teach these young guys as much as I know, and try to make them better than me. Try to give them every tool to be great, to try to take my spot. I don’t know if that’s because the way I was brought into the league in Atlanta, as a 20-year-old, I had a lot of veteran DBs around me who didn’t really care that I was taking their spot, they just showed me so much love. And in return, it kind of taught me that, S---, that’s the way you’re supposed to do it. I’ve got guys who I helped groom who eventually took my job and kicked me out of the league, but as I always said, I’m gonna keep playing until I feel like I’ve put the team in the best position to succeed without me. And there was no doubt that the guys we had, who were fighting me for playing time, were better, were younger, were faster—maybe not smarter, but with some of the things I would teach them along the way, they would be fine without me. That kind of made my decision easy for me, because I felt like I wasn’t a starter, I didn’t want to sit around there as a backup, I wanted to help a team win, help a team make plays, and when I felt like I couldn’t do that no more, I felt like it was time to go.

GRAMLING: In a league where you don’t last if you’re not a quarterback, did you ever think you’d last 14 years?
HALL: I think everybody goes in trying to get the first one out. Then you get the first one out and say, Can I get to five? You get to five, you say, Man, if I can get to eight... And if I can get to eight, can I get to 10? Can I get to 12? At 12, I wanted to get to 15. Having been injured the last couple years, I was like, Man, I just want to finish this season healthy. If I could finish this season without a surgery, I would have felt like I accomplished something for myself. And to get through this season without having to have a surgery, after having three in the last four years, I was like, Gosh, that’s a blessing, I’m done, thank you. But it’s tough, if you’re not a quarterback. I came into this league as a 20 year old—actually, me, Sean Taylor and Larry Fitzgerald all came into this league as 20 year olds, and all played against each other in college. Ben, and Philip and Eli are a little bit older. So those guys definitely got some years on me, but when you play the quarterback position, the league is such an offensive-driven league, they protect the quarterback so much, you can see how Tom’s still playing at age 41 at a high level. And, hell, if I was a quarterback I’m sure I’d probably still be playing too. But I’m not a quarterback, I’m a corner and a safety. You’ve gotta have speed, you gotta be able to bounce back and recover because you have to practice everyday to get a feel for what you’re trying to do. It’s a position where, as you decrease athletically, it becomes harder and harder to keep up with some of those young guys out there.

GRAMLING: It used to be you’d see a lot of star cornerbacks move to safeties when they hit their 30s and then become star safeties, guys like Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson, Aeneas Williams. But I can’t think of anyone who’s done it recently, except for you and Devin McCourty…
HALL: And Devin McCourty did it early in his career. I don’t think I ever remember him at corner, I know New England wanted a playmaker at safety so they moved him to safety. Same thing with Malcolm Jenkins—I remember when he came out in the draft from Ohio State, he trained with me and Larry [Fitzgerald] out in Minnesota, and I thought, Gosh, I don’t know if he moves like a corner. And then, from Day 1 he’s been a safety, and he’s been a hell of a player. But you’re right, because I feel like organizations and teams have become—I think leadership isn’t valued as much as it used to be. When I walked into that locker room as a young guy, as a rookie, all we had was veteran guys. I looked around the league, my first Pro Bowl I made at 21, 22 years old, and I’m out there with Ronda Barber, who’s a nine-, 10-year guy, Walt Harris, all these old corners, I remember teams wanting to keep them around. I remember Walt played forever, Shawn Springs, some of the other guys. The league just kinda changed, I think the CBA was supposed to keep old guys around, but I think it kinda pushed old guys out a little quicker than in the past.

GRAMLING: The rookie contract scale was put in to benefit veterans, but seems like it’s had the opposite effect because everyone wants rookies on those artificially cheap deals.
HALL: The only thing we’ve done is locked them into a fixed salary, kind of like the NBA, and we’ve basically made the quarterback such a premium that it’s almost disrespectful to every other player on the football field. It’s just such a business that I don’t think, when you’re playing it, you don’t really see it as a business, you don’t even really see it as a job, you just see it as a sport and something fun you’re doing. But it is a business and it is a job, and young guys need to figure that out early, because they longer they wait to figure it out, the more of a chance a team will have to take advantage of them.

GRAMLING: People often point to guys like JaMarcus Russell as the argument for the rookie wage scale. Would you like to see it go back to the old system?
HALL: You had veterans who were busts too, teams that sign these free agents and, whether it’s scheme or fit or relationship with the new coaches, it just doesn’t work out. So I don’t know if it has anything to do with that. It’s doesn’t matter though, somebody’s gonna get the money, whether it’s the rookie or a veteran. It didn’t make a lot of sense in the old system, that a tight end drafted fifth overall could be making more money than Tony Gonzalez. Or a quarterback who hadn’t done anything was making more than a quarterback who had made the Pro Bowl several times over. It doesn’t matter to me, but I know Cam Newton is wishing they had waited one more year—you see what Sam Bradford got and the player he’s become versus a guy like Cam Newton.

Tony L. Sandys/The Washington Post/Getty Images

GRAMLING: Your last two seasons were abbreviated, but you made a relatively smooth transition to safety. Why do you think it worked for you, whereas you don’t even see teams trying it with other guys? Do you see it as a possibility for a guy like, say, Richard Sherman in another three to five years?
HALL: Each individual player is different. If a guy like Richard Sherman decides he wants to, I absolutely think he can do it. I know, for myself, a lot of people and players in the league and former players [early in my career] were coming up to me like, Man, you were coming up hitting people, I was surprised. I remember Edgerrin James saying, D. Hall, you bringing the hat man, I wasn’t expecting that. And I always thought I was a good tackler at corner—a lot of people didn’t think I was a good tackler, but I always felt, personally, I was a good tackler. And when I moved to safety, I had it in my mind, This is how I want to play. I want to play physical. Just because I’m a little dude doesn’t mean I can’t hit hard. I can still run fast, and speed and power is gonna create a collision. So I had it in my head that that was the way I wanted to play. I think what makes it harder for some corners is just, if you’re a corner, you get that stigma of not liking to tackle. And some corners don’t like to tackle. You get back there at safety, there’s no way you won’t have to tackle. And you have to make tackles in space; when you’re a corner you often have a lot of help, you have a sideline close to you. That’s really the hardest part, the tackling. Most corners tend to know the communication, but that’s hard as well, communicating with the other guys on that defense and getting guys lined up. I was always communicating at corner, and so it made it easier to move to safety. Nine of out 10 times I was back there making those checks, either for the safety or along with the safety. So for me to move to safety, it was a natural progression for me.

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GRAMLING: Cornerbacks are getting paid these days, but the market for safeties was really soft this year. Do you have any theories as to why that is?
HALL: Teams are using corners as safeties. You think of Lamarcus Joyner, who’s out there with the Rams. He’s a corner; he was a nickel corner. And the coaches there came from Washington, they saw my transition and they were like, let’s move Lamarcus to safety, see if he can do it. He ends up being a hell of a safety—so physical, lines guys up, makes plays—and so a lot of teams are saying, Heck, nine out of 10 times that safety’s gonna have to cover anyway, why not use a corner, now we’re basically in nickel without being in nickel. So they’re kind of devaluing the safety position. We had different packages here where Kendall Fuller was playing safety while I was on PUP. So we were kind of playing nickel without playing nickel, because sometimes when you play nickel you’re moving some of those interior linemen out of there, so you have smaller guys in and teams want to run the ball. But we tried to outsmart them, we said, We’ll stay base, but we’re gonna take this box safety out, we’ll make the free safety the strong safety, and we’ll put a corner at the free safety spot. That’s kind of how we manipulated different things, and you see other teams doing that as well.

GRAMLING: In regard to another safety, Eric Reid, and his demonstrations for social justice during them anthem, did the front office or coaches ever address that with you guys the past two years?
HALL: We never really discussed it in Washington, that I can remember—we could have, and I could have just been daydreaming, but I don’t remember a meeting where it was said, Hey guys, this is what we’re gonna do, this is what we have to do, here’s the repercussions. It’s tough that a person can’t express how they feel without—I guess Jerry Jones says he’s gonna fine guys or cut guys or something like that—at the end of the day, no matter what cause you want to fight for, no matter what you believe in, a lot of these guys have families and mouths to feed. This is their livelihood, and it’s a bad time in this country if you can’t even disagree with someone without [the threat of] losing your livelihood. Social injustice is real, it is out there, and anybody who doesn’t think that it is, is just not looking.

You look at the NBA, I think [their players are more outspoken on social justice issues] because in the NBA the stars are the player reps, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Stephen Cutry. They’re the stars, the faces. I’m not trying to smack anyone in the face, but at one point our player rep was the long snapper. Guys who weren’t really connected to the pulse of the locker room, per se. They were more the guys who wanted to know everything that was going on. A lot of the great athletes, in football, don’t tend to really know what’s going on, as far as the business side of things go. And that’s something that needs to change.

Again, you look at the NBA, it’s hard for an owner to say to LeBron James, If you don’t do this, I’m gonna cut you. I’m LeBron James, bro, cut me if you want to. I’ll find a job. Whereas, if you have a guy who’s number 51 or 52 on the roster, Cool, we’ll get him out of here, there’s a thousand others like him trying to get a job. I think it would be a different story if Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, guys of that caliber took a stand. It’s a quarterback-driven league, they make the most money on every team, essentially. So if those guys are working their opinions, and siding with the rest of the guys—actually, not even siding with the rest of the guys in the locker room just weighing in, seeing the other side of it, I think it would be approached a lot differently than the, Get in line or get cut mentality.

GRAMLING: I’ve always wondered how much that is affected by the sheer amount of preparation time that any NFL player, especially a quarterback, has to put in for each individual game, as opposed to an NBA star who—and I’m not saying they don’t work hard…
HALL: Oh, they don’t work hard. [laughs] Baseball too, there’s so many games, it’s too much to treat all those games like they’re do-or-die. The NFL is 16, you gotta win or you’re not going to make the playoffs. In the NBA, you can coast for a month and still be a top-five seed; I remember when Miami put their Big Three together, they struggled for a while that first season, but still made the finals. So, in basketball, you get to take a little bit of a break, and things are a lot more relaxed and a lot more loose than it is in the NFL.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images

GRAMLING: I wanna go back to the start of your career: You came into the league at age 20, and you chose to wear No. 21 for the Atlanta Falcons. Everyone in our generation knows who No. 21 for the Falcons is. That seems like a pretty big statement.
HALL: Absolutely that was a statement. I grew up in Virginia, so obviously I’m a huge Darrell Green fan, but part of the reason I wanted to go to Florida State, and the reason I wore No. 2 in high school, was because of Deion. So, absolutely—I even had a catchphrase: “The best corner alive since the old 2-1 retired.” I said that anytime anyone put a camera in front of my face after I made a play. So I definitely wanted to try to emulate Deion’s playmaking ability, and also his brashness and flamboyant persona on the football field.

GRAMLING: Do you have a favorite memory from your time in Atlanta.
HALL: Gosh, we had some good days back then… Probably making it to the NFC championship game as a rookie. I had never played in a big-time bowl game in college—I only played three years at Tech, I played in the Gator Bowl, I played in the Bowl, the Diamond Walnut Bowl—so I never really played in a big-time game. It was always hard to beat Miami, it was hard to go to West Virginia and play, it was hard to play some of those Pittsburgh teams, I was a Big East guy. So, getting into the league and getting there as a rookie, I thought, This is easy. I’m thinking, I’ve got Michael Vick on my team running the offense, I’m a playmaker on defense—teams were afraid to throw at me in college, and it was exciting to be challenged. I felt like, in that NFC championship game, Gosh, if I had known how hard it was, 14 years later, to make it to those games. I probably would have savored that moment a little more, and to know I was a quarter away from getting to the Super Bowl as a rookie and never getting back to that moment. Looking back on my playing career, that was definitely tough to not get back, but probably that was my favorite moment as a Falcon, playing in that championship game, in Philadelphia, against guys like Donovan McNabb, T.O.—who actually didn’t play in that game because he was hurt. But these were guys I had grown up watching. And it was amazing to be a Falcon in those days, because Michael Vick was a bigger draw than Peyton Manning back then.

GRAMLING: I’ll leave this open-ended: What do you think of when you think of the Michael Vick Era in Atlanta?
HALL: The Vick Era in Atlanta was something profound. It was kind of like—from what I hear—when MC Hammer would walk into places there were thousands of people waiting to see him. The Dream Team in Barcelona, seeing how people clamored to get a glimpse of MJ and the rest of the NBA stars. It was kind of like that. I remember they had us—the Falcons—and the Colts play a preseason game in Tokyo, and preseason games don’t mean anything so it wasn’t much going on, it just broke up the monotony of preseason camp. We got to go out there for a week, and just seeing how Michael Vick was embraced internationally—like I said, he was a bigger draw than Peyton at that time—and I just think about what could have been. He still had a really good career, and he’ll still be known as one of the most electrifying quarterbacks or athletes to play the game of football, but man, what could have been. But also, to see the comeback he made, it’s been amazing to watch. But the main phrase I think of when I think about Mike is, gosh, “What could have been.” A first-ballot Hall of Famer, with some of the stuff he was doing early in his career, without a doubt. I know the passing numbers weren’t there, but I would have liked to see how he would have transitioned as the NFL transitioned to a lot more passing. Because when I first got into the league, you got in “I” [formation] and you ran the ball. You got in three receivers only when you had to. And you rarely saw four receivers. Now you get five out there sometimes. It was a different NFL back then, but I’m very sure Mike could have adapted and conformed with his playmaking ability. Because the hardest receivers to cover aren’t necessarily the great receivers, it’s the receivers who have great quarterbacks who know how to extend the play, a la Ben Roethlisberger. Or Tony Romo was a reason Dez Bryant was such a great player, because Tony was able to extend those plays and Dez kept moving, and they just made perfect music together. It would have been something really special with Mike.

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GRAMLNG: Sean Taylor was in tour draft class. You missed him in Washington, but he still has a presence there.
HALL: Oh, absolutely. He’s one of the best Redskins players ever to play the game. It sounds weird to say that knowing the list of players we’ve had come through this organization, but anybody who’s ever seen Sean play, either on video or live, I think they would say the same thing, because he was such a dominating force. You didn’t have 6-3, 6-4, 220-pound safeties when he played. And to move the way he did, covering ground and covering guys, and he was such an intimidating force. I remember one year at the Pro Bowl—Sean didn’t even make the team, that’s just how stacked the NFC was at safety back in the day, but somebody got hurt, either Roy Williams or Brian Dawkins, I can’t remember—and we brought Sean in as a late addition. And that was the year he knocked the punter out. Sean just didn’t know how to go half-speed or take it easy, he was a 100-miles-per-hour every time he stepped on the field, he gave it everything he had. He was a guy I battled against in college and looked up to for the way he played the game. I wish I had that size—I was a 5' 11" corner—but when I saw a guy like Sean Taylor be that big, but still athletic enough to make any play on the football field, it was amazing to watch. He’s absolutely still revered, guys still wear his jersey, people still buy his jersey. He’s another guy who would have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, hands down.

Hall (No. 21) and Vick (No. 7) were among the Falcons to make the Pro Bowl after the 2005 season.
Paul Spinelli/AP

GRAMLING: You covered guys who are now going into the Hall of Fame. Who’s the toughest cover you ever faced?
HALL: Oh, I say it all the time: Randy Moss, without a doubt. I have nothing but respect for all of these guys, from Marvin Harrison to T.O., I played against Jerry Rice, believe it or not. Torry Holt’s gonna get in, he was a dog, Steve Smith, Calvin Johnson was a freak of nature. I played against some great receivers. But there was something about Randy Moss that kept you up at night. And I never got nervous, I never was scared of anybody, I embraced every challenge. I damn near think I invented following guys, because I just wasn’t getting no action. At 21, I followed T.O. around for a whole game on Monday night; he had a big first half then nothing in the second half. But there was something about Randy, man, he just blew you away. I was fast, but Randy still scared me. Hands down, if I was starting a team, all those guys I named I would love to have on my team. But to me, Randy epitomizes greatness.

GRAMLING: One of my favorite things about him was, not just the incredible athleticism, but his late hands downfield. He would never tip off when the ball was arriving.
HALL: Absolutely, he was a wizard when it came to catching balls. That’s what a lot of people don’t give him credit for. They gave him credit for the raw speed, but I don’t think people realized how great his hands were. He’s part of the reason—he and Cris Carter are part of the reason Larry Fitzgerald became such a great receiver and has the best hands, probably even better than those two guys, because they taught him how important it was to catch every ball, and have your hands so strong that no one can take it from him.

GRAMLING: Are the late hands the toughest thing to deal with as a DB?
HALL: As a DB you’re always told, Read his eyes. When his eyes start getting big, you know that ball’s coming. I had a great interception against Denver once, late in the game. I was mad they were even throwing the ball, I was like, Damn, Peyton, y’all up 21 points and you’re still throwing the ball? But he throws it to Demaryius Thomas near their sideline. And Demaryius does the same thing, keeps his hands down, gives me the late hands, but what he didn’t realize was I was reading his eyes. I saw his eyes get big. I was able to jump up, as his eyes got really big, because I know the ball’s coming I’m basically able to make a no-look interception, through his hands, I snatched it from him. And I still remember seeing Chris Harris on the sideline going, Damn, that’s a hell of a play! I think I dapped Chris Harris up, like, I got that s---, didn’t I.

But Randy Moss would never let something like that happen. He somehow didn’t let his eyes tell you the ball was coming—let alone his hands. He never even let you know the ball was coming. He was, by far, the best receiver I ever played against.

GRAMLING: You’ve done work in broadcasting, and you’ve proven to be really good at it. Is that the future for you?
HALL: I remember sitting down with Bruce Allen, the Redskins’ team president, and he asked, D. Hall, what do you want to do? Do you want to coach? You wanna get in the front office with us? Are you gonna do the media, do the TV thing? And I’m like, Bruce, I’m so weird, because I love it all. I really do love it all. I love anything having to do with football. I’ve been, over the years, a quote-unquote unofficial assistant GM, he calls me. And so I sat with those guys through the whole process, at the combine, I sat in on meetings, at the combine I met with NFL Network, I went to ESPN right after, I went to L.A. after that. I really do enjoy it all. The thing about me, I see former players in the media—and some of them are great, I’m not gonna knock them all—some just make it personal and it doesn’t need to be personal. A guy is not gonna be mad if you say, “He got beat deep, he has to play that technique a little better.” And you move on. But if you sit there and beat up on a guy for 10, 15 minutes on the same play, that’s when they get a little angry. And guys know. I played corner; you win some, you lose some. Raheem Morris told us one time, one of his best sayings that I still use, “gunfighters get shot.” Wyatt Earp got shot plenty of times, and he was a great gunfighter. Corners, we consider ourselves gunfighters, you’re gonna get beat. Only corner that don’t get beat is the corner who don’t play. But I’m very opinionated, and I love football. I’m a football historian.

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GRAMLING: What do you miss most about playing?
HALL: Just competing. Like I said, I think I was one of the first guys to follow receivers around for more than a game, actually keep doing it throughout the course of a season, and that’s what I’m gonna miss the most. I’m gonna miss those challenges, those one-on-ones, I’m better than you. Going back to training the young guys, I always wanted them to be at their best because I wanted to know I beat a guy out who had every tool that I had, who knew everything that I knew, that I didn’t just beat him out because I knew more than him, that I beat him out because I was athletically and mentally better than him. That’s probably what I’m gonna miss most. I missed it after moving to safety. I missed being able to sit out on that island one-on-one and say, I got this dude. If he catches a touchdown, s---, it’s on me. If he don’t? It’s on me. I obviously have had some time, since I haven’t been at corner for awhile, to kind of ease my way away from it. But that’s ultimately what I miss the most, competing against the other guy in front of you to see who’s the best. Because as a kid, that’s what you did. That’s what we did growing up in Chesapeake. It was, you know, race the guy side-by-side to see who’s the fastest. Wrestling, slap-boxing, football—we competed.

Larry French/Getty Images

GRAMLING: Can you quench that competitiveness somewhere else?
HALL: I mean, I play golf but I’m not very good so that makes it hard for me to feel like I can dominate another guy who’s a scratch golfer. But even in the business world, there’s a company I’m working with that’s bringing the first 3-D screen to the marketplace, a tech company out of New York, Qoobex. But we’re competing against some guys—I heard Bezos was trying to get the same technology we’ve already patented. You compete in other ways, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same as physically being able to put your hands on a guy, or knowing—like me and Chad Johnson used to talk s--- back and forth to each other about the game, and I used to tell everybody, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what he says, it doesn’t matter what I say, I know I’m gonna get to see him on this field. And no matter how many slick comebacks he’s got, I know what I got inside of me that wants to beat him. I don’t know what he’s got inside of him, he might just be talking because he wants the attention, but I know why I’m talking. I’m talking because I really feel as though I’m about to kick this dude’s a--. And that’s what you can’t get in business, I can’t do it in golf, not yet. There are other things you do to try to fill that void, but right now I try to live vicariously through my kids.

GRAMLING: And you have, what, three girls and three boys?
HALL: Yes sir. I try not to push them, but I let them know, if they’re gonna do something, be great. Especially in school, be great. We ain’t sittin’ in class to get no C. Let’s get A’s. Let’s be the best. My daughters are all in competitive cheer, they all tumble. My wife was a heck of a cheerleader in college at Virginia Tech too. I live through them, I used to do gymnastics so I love watching them tumble. My 6-year-old twins—I was the baby and I always tell everybody the babies have a little bit of an advantage because they get to live through the rest of the siblings and they become better athletes than they were gonna be because they’re always chasing the older kids—my twins are phenomenal athletes. And I’m not just saying that because they’re my kids. It took my oldest son—he’s 16 now—it took him a while to figure it out. He didn’t even hit a baseball, besides off a tee, until he was about 11 years old, rec ball. And then he made an All-Star team, and then he started making travel teams. He plays varsity baseball now, varsity football. But to watch 6-year-olds play 7u travel baseball, play 6-7 tackle as 5-year-olds, you probably saw them tackling each other at training camp last year. I told my wife I wasn’t gonna be home for their first practice, but I wanted to show them [tackling] doesn’t hurt. So as 5-year-olds they wanted to bump up and play because they wanted to put shoulder pads and helmets on like dad. Just to watch my kids’ competitive nature and try to see how similar they are to me and in some ways different from me, I kind of live vicariously through them, but I don’t try to push them one way or the other. I just want them to put their best foot forward, always work hard, always have drive and motivation no matter what you do. I don’t care if none of them ever play a professional sport, but I know the life lessons I learned in playing sports would have made me successful in anything I did. That’s what I want to get through to them, that you’re gonna win but, hell, you’re gonna lose too, and I’ve learned more in losses than I ever learned in winning. I tried to critique myself so much after wins, because sometimes it gets lost that you played bad here or need to do this better, because you won.

GRAMLING: Do you think you’d ever be interested in going into coaching?
HALL: Gosh, I know it’s unrealistic to think this way: I wouldn’t want to be a position coach, but I would do anything to be a head coach. Because, being in that locker room, for some reason guys have always gravitated toward me, guys have always followed me. Guys have always listened to what I had to say. And I think part of it was the journey, guys had heard about who I was and who I have become; I was a high draft pick, I always had credibility. But at one point I was always strictly about myself, I wanted to make Pro Bowls, that’s all you heard me talk about. It was never really about the team, and that’s kind of what I ended on talking about the NFC championship game. I think if I was who I am now, I don’t know if we win that game, but I think I take a little more from that game than I did. Because all I cared about was, Well, s---, I made the Pro Bowl as an alternate, who’s gonna get hurt? I didn’t get to go. Then the next year, that’s all I cared about, not that we started 6-2 and ended 8-8, I didn’t care, I wanted to make it to the Pro Bowl. And so, I think having my story and just being able to lead guys, I’ve kind of changed my mentality over the past seven or eight years as far as being a leader. I remember watching ESPN and hearing guys say, Me-Angelo. It hurts me to hear that now, but damn, man, that’s kind of how some people remember me.

I had the privilege to be around Sean McVay, who’s a great young coach. We had great conversations, and I think I helped him grow as a coach, just from some of the things I learned along the way and could reiterate to him. I’m rooting for him, I root for Kyle [Shanahan]. I don’t think I’m the player I am now before Mike Shanahan got his hands on me and challenged me to be a leader. He told me, D. Hall, you’re a great player, but I want you to be so much more, and you can be so much more. And I never knew I had that ability until I got around Mike. And I didn’t like Mike at first. I owned a house in Virginia, before I decided to make Virginia home and me and my wife and family went back and forth to Georgia. I can remember selling that house one offseason, thinking, Man, I’m not playing for Mike, we don’t get along. And then Raheem Morris came in as the DBs coach, and he refused to play middle man. He told me he’s not passing any messages along to Mike, and told Mike he’s not passing any messages along to me. And me and Mike talked, and from that point on, whatever Mike wanted me to do, I did, I didn’t ask any questions. And to this day, I still call him and talk to Mike Shanahan. I love him to death. He’s a big reason I’m the person I am.

GRAMLING: You’re now the father of kids who play football. How do you feel about that from a safety standpoint?
HALL: I want them to play baseball… period. But I don’t think about [concussions] too much, I try to teach them how to play the game the right way, head up, keep your head out of it. I was fortunate enough—I feel like had I played safety for 14 years, maybe I’d be a little more damaged than I am. But it’s part of the game, and I hate to say that and I hate to be so insensitive to it. But it’s part of the game, and the reason I try to push baseball as opposed to football, I tell my wife, I would die for my kids. And so, if I die in 10, 15 years because of head trauma, knowing I put my family in a better position, that’s all I really wanted to accomplish, so they don’t have to grow up the way I did. So I wouldn’t tell them not to play, but it is like, Hey, you want to play football? Cool. I’ll show you how to tackle the right way. And let’s play baseball too. And hopefully you love baseball more. But they love football.

GRAMLING: For you, what’s been the best part about not playing football?
HALL: Not missing things in my kids’ lives. I apologize to my 16-year-old all the time, like, Man, I missed so much stuff when you were growing up because I was always gone or training or trying to be the best football player and not trying to be the best dad. And he always said, No, it’s O.K. dad. Or sometimes he’ll say, Man, I wish you were doing that with me like you do with the twins, and I just say, I know man, I’m sorry. And so I regret that part of it. That’s why it was time. I could have tried to hang on, stick around, there were teams that were going to bring me in because they knew me and liked me as a person and a locker room guy. But that’s not the role I wanted, and I felt like it was time to really pour into my family and pour into other business ventures and other things that I want to do as well. I know I sound crazy, but except for competing, I don’t miss a damn thing.

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