Rushing into the NFL

Former USF running back Andre Hall is in his first season with the Denver Broncos. PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC LARS BAKKE AND THE DENVER BRONCOS.

The phone call Andre Hall has been waiting to make his entire life never happened.

On the final day of cuts, Hall was one of the last players to make the Denver Broncos’ 53-man roster. But the good news he was about to tell his family didn’t happen the way he expected it.

“I was so happy that when I was pulling my phone out, I dropped it into a fountain,” Hall said. “When I borrowed my friend’s phone, my mom didn’t pick up because she didn’t know the number. By the time I spoke with my family, they already knew I had made it.”

For Hall, the youngest of nine children, reaching the NFL was an accomplishment for him and his entire family.

“Everyone was so happy for me,” Hall said. “But the way I look at it is when I made it, everyone with me made it, too.”

Hall is listed as the third running back on the Broncos’ official depth chart, behind Travis Henry and Selvin Young. Along with his rushing duties, Hall is expected to contribute on special teams.

“When Andre was here we really tried to get him a lot of reps on special teams,” USF running back coach Carl Franks said. “When teams start drafting players, they really look for them to demonstrate abilities on special teams. Hopefully he’s been doing that and he becomes a really valuable player on special teams.”

Denver defeated the Buffalo Bills 15-14 last Sunday, but Hall didn’t play in the game. Sunday when the Broncos host the Oakland Raiders, Hall likely will make his debut at Mile High Stadium.

“Game day in the NFL is serious; I really can’t wait to get out there and show what I can do,” Hall said. “My main goal is to fill in for Travis when he leaves the field and have the team not experience a drop-off.”

Even though he wasn’t able to break the news to his family, Hall is still trying to comprehend that he accomplished his

ultimate goal.

“I’m so excited right now – I’m just coming out of the awe stage,” Hall said. “Now I’m starting to realize that I might be contributing to a team that is competing for the playoffs. So I have to buckle down for the next 17 weeks and try to make that happen.”

Hall reaching the NFL hasn’t come as a surprise for those close to him.

“He’s one of the toughest running backs I’ve been around,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “He’s very hard to bring down. If he gets his opportunity, I think he’ll be one of the great backs in the NFL.”

The journey for Hall was relatively shorter than for most NFL players. While attending Dixie Hollins High School, the same school Leavitt attended, Hall played football for only one season.

In one year, Hall led all Pinellas County rushers with 1,742 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2000. After high school, he played for the Georgia Military Academy, where he was voted a two-time National Junior College Athletic Association All-American and was named the nation’s top Junior College running back recruit by Rivals.com.

“I think just wanted to get back closer to his family,” Franks said. “Family is really important to him, so I think that was definitely a big factor for him to come here.”

Even with all of the accolades, colleges didn’t heavily recruit Hall because of his smaller size. Standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 212 pounds, Hall is still considered to be a small running back.

“In the pros it’s such a numbers game. They’re looking for a certain height, weight and speed. Andre isn’t a guy that fits right into that box.” Franks said. “But he is a little bit of an exception to what they generally look for.”

“I’m already the underdog, so there’s no room for error,” Hall said. “I just have that go-get-it attitude and just use what I’ve got.”

When Hall enrolled at USF, he rewrote all of the Bulls’ rushing records. During his two-year stint with the Bulls, Hall set the career rushing record with 2,731 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also returned three kicks for touchdowns during his collegiate career.

“He isn’t a burner, but what he does have is the ability to make people miss,” Franks said. “Andre is an excellent cutter – he can use a spin move, stiff-arm a guy and can bounce off of people. That’s what you’re looking for in a running back and that’s what he has the ability to do.”

After graduating with a degree in liberal arts in 2005, Hall was invited to training camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears. Hall was released by both teams and spent last season on the practice squad in Denver.

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