Sheer will and determination can carry you a lot of places that one may have never thought was possible.
Over the course of his lifetime, West center and defensive lineman Jacob Hall was told that he couldn’t play football at a high level.
The 5-10, 230-pound senior, however, knew that the naysayers weren’t measuring his heart and his passion to succeed on the gridiron.
So when faced with the previously mentioned adversity, Hall chose to prove his doubters wrong instead of folding up camp.
The Senators’ field general and one of the leaders of arguably a top-three rushing attack across the entire Southeast District not only played an integral role for a team that became just the third West unit to ever win at least one playoff game, but earned an opportunity to play for the Cincinnati Christian University football program. The center/defensive lineman, who signed with the Eagles on National Signing Day, held a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon at Portsmouth West High School as part of the accomplishment.
And it’s all thanks to those naysayers that said that Hall couldn’t play football.
“It means a lot,” Hall said of the opportunity. “I’ve been told that I wouldn’t be able to do anything, so I just pushed myself to the limit in order to succeed and get into college.”
However, the opportunity is one that Hall not only aimed for from Day One, but took serious pride in as evidenced by his consistent presence in offseason weights and conditioning drills.
“Jacob was just a really hard worker during all four seasons of his football career,” West head coach Ben Johnson said. “Throughout his high school career, he made a lot of improvements. Over the last two years, he was a stalwart on the offensive line for us under center. He also stepped in there and gave us some good minutes on the defensive side of the football. I’m just really proud of him and happy that he’s going to get to continue his football career.”
And as he improved, Hall proved that he could not only play football, but proved that he was an absolute brick wall on the offensive line in the process.
Behind a veteran offensive line that included Jakeb Guilkey, Kane Lewis, Brandon Weaver, Cole Gilley, and Caleb Deaver among others in the rotation, West obtained 3,631 total yards for the season — or a mark of 302.6 yards per affair — behind the leadership of Hall and a senior-laden offensive line core, with over 188 yards per contest coming by way of the ground game. Hall spearheaded the line’s efforts with his effective leverage on quarterback sneaks, as it was not uncommon for West to garner between five to seven yards a pop just by telling junior quarterback Dylan Bradford to follow Hall, or dependable No. 52 in other words.
“I thought that it was a great experience. I had fun playing four years of high school football, especially with these guys,” Hall said of his high school football experience while signaling over toward teammates and fellow seniors in Lewis, LT Maynard, and Cody Staggs, who attended the signing. “I loved playing with them. I’ve done it ever since I was a little kid. Going through the whole high school experience with them was really fun. We really amped it up this year and started winning. It was just a good experience. I loved it.”
None of that, however, surprised Johnson, who credited the quiet, but confident senior as a player who “leads by example.”
“Jacob’s one of the strongest kids that I’ve ever been around, and he’s also one of the hardest working players that I’ve coached,” Johnson said. “He’d go above and beyond in the weight room. He was always giving great effort, going above and beyond, and doing the extra little things to make himself the best that he could be.”
“It means a lot to me,” Hall said of Johnson’s comments. “I wanted to try to prove myself. I try to work hard and I try to beat anyone that I am in a competition with in the weight room or on the practice field. However, it’s not about just that, it’s about beating the guy across from you on the opposite team. It comes down to all of us working as a team together. I didn’t just go in the weight room or put in reps just for myself, I put in those reps to help my team. It’s about winning games.”
Hall’s leadership skills really showed prior to West’s big Halloween Bowl showdown against Wheelersburg in Week 10, when the Senators’ dependable center suffered a broken hand in practice — an injury that normally requires four to six weeks of recovery time.
However, knowing that the injury, if treated right away, meant that his high school football career could be over, Hall, knowing that Friday’s game would be the biggest of his life to that point, toughed it out, put padding over it, and readjusted his snapping from both the under center and shotgun variations. West lost against ‘Burg that Friday, but Hall won his own war and finished the year without missing any time — a point that gained a great deal of respect from his own head coach.
“It (center) is a very important position,” Johnson said. “Jacob did an outstanding job of playing at the center position. His toughness is what really stands out there. He’s extremely tough. He actually had a hand injury late in the season, and played through that. He was able to snap the football and didn’t have any problems with shotgun snaps or under center snaps, so I was really impressed with the way that he handled that toward the end of the year. That was really outstanding.”
“It was difficult to snap at first because I had to readjust, but I got used to it so I could play,” Hall said. “I didn’t want to go out my senior year with a broken hand. (The ‘Burg game) was going to be one of the biggest games of my life, so I didn’t want to miss that for the world.”
Since the end of the season, Hall has certainly had no issues keeping himself busy. In fact, the senior participated in the Scout Trout All American Bowl in late January, a high school bowl game that ultimately brought 98 different football players — including Hall — from the Midwestern and Southeastern United States to Mobile, Ala. Hall got extensive playing time at defensive line and fullback — the latter being a position that the 5-10, 230-pound center had never played before prior to the contest — as Hall helped the North squad obtain a 7-0 victory over the South.
“(The Scout Trout All-American Game) was a really great experience,” Hall said. “I went down there and played with a bunch of guys that I didn’t even know, but we came together as a team. We beat South 7-0, which was great, but seeing us come together as a team was even better. It proves that no matter where you come from, you can come together as a team and just play football.”
With his signing set in stone, Jacob Hall’s perseverance and grit is a prime example of what has made the West football program such a fun one to watch over the years. That grit, however, is one that Hall credits his coaches — especially assistants Jerrod and Trevon Pendleton — for continuing to reinforce.
“It’s a good coaching group, especially Trevon and Jerrod Pendleton, because they are the most intense coaches that I have ever been around and played for,” Hall said of the West football coaching staff. “It didn’t matter who you were. They would push you constantly. I’m thankful for that. If they didn’t push us, we wouldn’t have been where we ended up as a football team. I’m really thankful for that.”
And as a coach, one only hopes that the underclassmen apply the same set of traits to their own work habits.
“You have to try to do that, but it is going to be hard to replace all of those guys,” Johnson said of replacing Hall and his senior-laden line. “That’s the way that it goes. That’s just the nature of the beast each year. New guys just have to find a way to step up. We’re excited and looking forward to that, but we sure will miss Jacob.”