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Out of the shadows: Surrounded by friends with fame, Hall ready for his own spotlight

Rodney Hall dates a beauty queen and his HS buddies became college stars; now it's his time to shine

Posted: August 9, 2014 - 10:50pm  |  Updated: August 10, 2014 - 12:32am
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Texas Tech running back Rodney Hall cradles four-yard pass for a touchdown against Arizona State during the first half of the Holiday Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)  Gregory Bull
Gregory Bull
Texas Tech running back Rodney Hall cradles four-yard pass for a touchdown against Arizona State during the first half of the Holiday Bowl NCAA college football game, Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
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When Rodney Hall caught a touchdown pass on Texas Tech’s first series of the Holiday Bowl last year, all but the most ardent Red Raiders’ fans might have been scratching their heads as to his identity.

Hall’s a low-slung blocking fullback, not a marquee position to begin with. Then consider that he was a walk-on who had touched the football only four times previously in a Tech uniform.

Who was this guy?

Quandre Diggs and Henry Josey, on the other hand, reached for their cell phones. Two players who’d earned all-Big 12 recognition were happy to see the spotlight, for a moment, shine on their childhood friend.

“They both texted me after the game,” Hall said, “were telling me, ‘Good job. Congratulations.’ Things like that, because it was my first career touchdown and it was real exciting for me.”

Hall has seldom been the center of attention.

At Angleton High School, he lined up in the same backfield with Diggs at quarterback and Josey at tailback. Diggs has gone on to be a four-year starter at cornerback for Texas, and Josey a two-time 1,000-yard rusher at Missouri.

Talk about being overshadowed.

And that goes for his social life, too. Hall’s dating Miss Lubbock Texas 2013 and current Miss Texas America Coed, Alaina Granado.

“We both get a lot of attention,” Hall said, “me being on the football team, her being 2013 Miss Lubbock (Texas) and went on to win Miss Texas (America Coed), so we both get a lot of questions. It’s pretty exciting.”

 

Gaining traction

This season, Hall has a chance to push back the veil of anonymity. In fairness, he was a four-year starter in Angleton’s loaded backfield and started every game for two years at Tyler Junior College.

Now Tech fans hard-pressed to name No. 40 last season should know the Red Raiders plan to use him more his senior year. Not as a focal point of the running game. In three years at Tyler and Tech, Hall has 46 career carries.

But he’s 5-foot-9, 240 pounds and has always earned his keep by blocking and catching swing passes.

“He had 46 carries? By the end of this 2014 season, it may be 49, OK?,” Tech running backs coach Mike Jinks said with a grin. “And Rodney understands that. I love having him in my room, because he understands his role.

“He probably has the best hands in our room. And he’s more graceful than people think, so when you slip him out on bootlegs and things of that nature, (the defense) has to hold back side a little bit and account for him, because he can hurt you. Arizona State’s a testament to that.”

It helps Hall’s chances of playing time that Tech coaches have a handle on what he brings now. Last year, he had to wade through the sea of walk-ons to make an impression.

Jinks called him “an unbelievable surprise.”

“From day one, he showed he had a physical presence about him,” Jinks said. “That’s the kind of guys I like. He won my heart.”

Hall didn’t advance from scout team to getting game-preparations snaps with the first- and second-team offense until midseason.

“We (new coaches) were getting in, having to teach a new offense,” Jinks said. “He kind of picked up the system without getting a rep. Everything he did was mentally, by watching, learning vicariously, which also impressed me.”

 

Born to block

Throwing lead blocks might be in Rodney Hall’s blood. He’s a second cousin to Ahmard Hall, another a sub-6-foot fullback out of Angleton. Yet another person in his orbit with a measure of fame.

Ahmard Hall played at Texas and spent six seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He had only 24 career carries in the NFL, but played in 85 games and started 40.

Angleton can boast a remarkable stream of skill-position athletes in the last several years. There was Quentin Jammer, who went on to play cornerback at Texas and in the NFL. Jammer’s an older brother to Diggs, with whom Rodney Hall has been best friends since they were little kids.

“We actually met in first grade,” Hall said, “same class, and from then we were just always together, couldn’t keep us apart.”

Hall sheepishly admits he was a UT fan growing up. With so many familial ties to the Longhorns, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

“Me and Quandre both got moved up to varsity our freshman year in high school and both started,” Hall said. “And that was kind of like a big thing, because we both had older siblings or whatever in the NFL, so that was real big back home.”

This generation could have as much success as Jammer and Ahmard Hall. In addition to Diggs and Rodney Hall, there was another talent in the backfield a year older. Josey topped 1,100 rushing yards in 2011 at Missouri, blew out a knee in 2012 and came back to top 1,100 yards again last year.

“I did a lot of blocking for those two,” Hall said, “so I kind of got overlooked.”

Hall met NCAA eligibility requirements coming out of high school. He spent two years at Tyler Junior College, he said, because it was his best opportunity.

 

Support system

Mike Jinks expects Rodney Hall to have more catches than carries this year, but says he’ll have a role in the offense. The Red Raiders have some two-back sets in mind that will feature Hall.

Good for him, and good for the people backing him. Hall says there are plenty, beginning with his girlfriend. He and Granado, from Fort Stockton, transferred to Tech in the spring of 2013 and met last year on campus.

“I took her bowling and just kind of went from there,” Hall said.

He found out quickly that his wasn’t the only atypical college student’s life.

“I went to her Miss Lubbock pageant when she handed over the crown to 2014 Miss Lubbock,” he said, “and then I watched her Miss Texas (Coed) pageant online, because we were in football at the time during workouts.”

Hall said Granado comes to all the Red Raiders’ home games and made at least one road game last season. With his being more than eight hours from home, he says having the support of his girlfriend and her family helps.

Who knows, they might have another touchdown catch to cheer this season.

That would delight Jinks, too. Position coaches aren’t supposed play favorites, but Jinks doesn’t hide his fondness for a walk-on who made good.

“Just the way he carries himself, he’s going to be successful in whatever he wants to do,” Jinks said. “He gets it. He gets that, ‘It’s not about me.’ Good guy.”

 

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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