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Hall the hype, Hall the yards

When the time came, he didn’t want to leave.

He couldn’t.

But then again, he didn’t have reason to.

At the beginning of the year, Bulls running back Andre Hall had the chance to go to the NFL Draft.

Instead, he became a draft dodger.

“It was an easy call. I wasn’t going nowhere. I just flirted with it, was all.”

Technically, he may not have headed to Canada, but if he had been running it wouldn’t have taken him very long to get there.

So he’s back.

He’s a senior and he’s grown – he’s still a generous 5-foot-10 and 205 pounds that can carry about two offensive lineman or the equivalent weight of a Civic Hybrid – but growing for Hall is not just being one of the oldest players on the team, but becoming the overall best player he can be.

And the best son.

His father, Captain Hall (yes, that’s his real name), 84, is partially blind due to glaucoma. He often has to listen to the games. Hall is the third youngest of Captain’s nine children.

Not bad for a guy who survived World War II and “just doesn’t like talk about it,” Hall claims.

“He always has (run things at our house),” the senior from Dixie Hollins said. “He’s like the quarterback at our house. Since I’ve always been the smallest, I’ll always be his running back.”

It seems Hall comes from a big family that has small frames, but also have big hearts. Despite taking care of so many children under one roof, Captain still found the time to teach to his son, appreciate him and listen to him talk about Hall’s favorite hobby: chess.

He also gave him a tidbit of advice while growing up.

“A smart man can learn from his mistakes,” Hall recites, “but a smarter man can learn from others’ mistakes.

“Sometimes he says, ‘I can’t see you, bro, but they said you had a good game.’ At least he’s showing some support. At least he listens. That’s important to me.

“He’s my hero.”

Good advice, since Captain rarely follows football. Whether it is baseball – Captain lives in St. Petersburg and even he doesn’t root for the Devil Rays – or boxing, it’s what he likes to talk about with his son. Hall figures those topics are a little more interesting than “the lakes and ponds we sometimes talk about. Doesn’t really matter though, because he relaxes me.”

If being relaxed means breaking the all-time rushing record in his first year with the team, someone tell Hall to become a Buddhist and slip some morphine into his Gatorade. Everyone knew the sky was the limit, and in April, with the stats Hall accumulated in 11 games – 1,357 yards on 210 attempts; 6.5 yards a carry, while scoring 11 touchdowns – he could, at the very least, have been a late second-round pick.

Which begs the question: Is Hall the best player to ever wear a Bulls uniform?

He’s certainly one of the most talked about.

Hall is ranked on as the 22nd top player in the nation and is talked about endlessly on numerous other sites, including the two hours of free publicity where his picture was the main story on the home page of the most-looked-at sports Web site in the world,

He holds just about every rushing record – most attempts in a season (210), most rushing touchdowns in a season (11), most rushing touchdowns in a game (3), most rushing yards in a game (275) – and he’s not done with the game or his teammates.

“I lead by example. These guys, though, should feel comfortable coming to talk to me about anything. School, home (life), football, girls, soccer, baseball. If they miss their dog – anything.

Come and talk to me.

“What makes it so tough is that I don’t want to let the guys down. I can’t slack nowhere.”

Sure, there have been plenty of football players in the past of notoriety – J.R. Reed, Marquel Blackwell, Anthony Henry, the Gramaticas, Kawika Mitchell, Ryan Benjamin, DeAndrew Rubin, Kenyatta Jones – but none as watched as Hall.

The best Bull ever?

Hall will ask himself that question before stepping in front of 107,282 people at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.

The photo on Web site? He remembers it and tries not to let it go to his head.

“It’s my screen saver.”

Well, maybe just a little.