Olu Hall was one of the most sought after players in the country coming out of high school in 2003.
He was ranked the No. 1 player in the state of Virginia his senior year by numerous publications and was named to several high school All-America teams.
Letters from some of the top coaches in the country would come in the mail everyday. Hall spurned scholarship offers from perennial football powers Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Miami (Fla.,) to play for the University of Virginia.
Things couldn’t have been going better for the 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end.
But he ran into academic problems after his first year at Virginia, and soon after his life changed drastically.
While trying to get his grades back up so he could play the game he loved – a tragedy occurred – one that would send Hall on a journey that eventually ended in Manhattan.
He was born in Cleveland. At a young age, Hall and his four siblings moved to Fairfax, Va., with his mother.
He started playing flag football at the age of eight, though he will attest that he wasn’t very good. He then turned to soccer, among other sports, but kept coming back to the sport he struggled at in his youth.
He said he didn’t become good at football until his freshman year in high school. He wanted to be a quarterback, but his older brother told him he was bound to be a defensive end. Hall abided.
“My older brother was my biggest influence when it came to playing football,” Hall said.
His biggest influence off the field was and still is his mother, Bonnie Hall, who balanced taking college night classes while trying to raise a family of five on her own.
“There were times when we were young and she would take us all to class,” Hall said. “We would sit out in the hall and wait while she was in class.”
Rise to stardom
Hall dominated the high school football ranks in the state of Virginia. He was a man amongst boys, displaying power and explosiveness off of the edge from his defensive end position
He compiled 93 tackles and 11 sacks in his senior year, earning him a parade of honors.
Hall said he didn’t feel any added pressure despite being one of the top defensive players in the country.
“The pressure for me was to get my SAT scores and get into school,” he said. “I really didn’t even know I was the No. 1 player in the state until one of my friends came up and told me one day. It was a blessing and it gave me the opportunity to get a free education.”
His college choice
Hall attended prep school in 2004 at Hargrave Military Academy after graduating from high school.
When it was time to make a college choice, Hall elected to stay in-state and play for the University of Virginia.
“I really liked Ohio State and Purdue,” Hall said. “But I took a visit to Virginia and they sold me.”
His relationship with coach Ron Prince, who at the time was an assistant coach at Virginia, helped sway Hall to the Cavaliers.
“Coach Prince came to talk to me and told me about the different aspects and everything,” Hall said. “He wasn’t my lead recruiter, but he would come down every now and then. He came to my house a couple of times on recruiting visits as well.”
A tragic turn
Hall saw limited playing time in his first year at Virginia. He played in eight games, registering only one tackle in 94 plays.
Little did he know that on a night when his Cavaliers knocked off No. 4 ranked Florida State in 2005 – it would be the last time he saw the football field for more than two years.
Hall decided to give up football for a year in 2006 to focus on his academics.
While he was doing so, a tragedy occurred close to his heart.
His mother drove to the Virginia campus to let Hall know what had happened. She didn’t want him to find out from anyone else.
His oldest brother, Jose, had been killed.
“It was devastating,” Hall said. “I knew I had to be the man of the family and step up and be strong. It was a tragic situation.”
This tragedy did not stop Hall’s desire to get back on the field, however.
“I busted my butt,” he said. “I came back to school early to try and finish and get some of my grades up and it just didn’t work out. It just set me back a little bit further too. But everything happens for a reason.”
A new place to call home
He was back on the football field and getting repetitions with the Cavalier first-team defense. It appeared things were going well for Hall as he prepared to get back on the field after sitting out a year.
However, things took another twist when the NCAA ruled him ineligible prior to the 2007 season.
Hall’s grades went up enough to be in good academic standing with Virginia, one of the top academic universities in America. However, the NCAA ruled his cumulative grade point average was not high enough to be eligible for the season.
He needed someone to turn to. The person he went
to was a face of familiarity and comfort — one of his old coaches.
“I wanted to play football and coach Prince gave me the opportunity to come out here and said he could use me in the defense,” he said. “So, I just packed up and came out here.”
Prince on Hall
Coach Ron Prince said he admires Hall.
“He comes over here,
studies film, comes to practice, does his schoolwork and that’s it,” Prince said. “He understands why he’s here and I think he feels like he wants to make up for lost time. I admire that about a kid.”
Prince sees a noticeable change in his versatile linebacker.
“I think he’s much more focused on exactly what he has to do because his time is ticking,” Prince said. “He was a young man with a lot of promise, one of the top players in the state, with much acclaim, and he came to a place like Virginia with expectations for him to play early in his career.”
Prince said that the ups and downs Hall has been through have had a positive affect.
“He had it all happen for him and all of a sudden had it taken away,” he said. “I think that affects anybody when that happens. You see a seriousness about him or a focus
A happy place for Hall
He has finally found a place of stability.
“I’ve found a home in Manhattan,” Hall said. “I love it here to tell you the truth.”
Hall said it is the people that have made him feel so comfortable in the Little Apple.
“I’m just happy where I am at right now,” he said. “I like this defense. I like Kansas and I like K-State. I like the fans. The people here are just generally good-hearted people. It just makes me want to play even harder.”
He sat out the 2007 season at K-State due to NCAA transfer rules. There was nothing he could do to help his teammates as he witnessed them struggle defensively down the stretch in 2007.
Hall has ridden the highs and the lows in life. Wildcat fans hope they see more of the highs on Saturdays from Hall.
p; Prince expects they will.
“I think from a leadership standpoint and other areas, we’ll really see him blossom,” he said. “I know that side of him and I am just anxious for others to see it.”