It’s one dream down and another one to go for Bryan Hall of the Baltimore Ravens.
Any kid who ever plays football aspires to be on a team that makes it to the Super Bowl,” said Hall, a reserve defensive tackle for the champs from the Charm City.
Hall grew up in Paducah and was a star gridder at Tilghman High School, where he graduated in 2006.
Hall’s not resting on any Super Bowl laurels.
“You’ve got to press on. I’m going to press on. I want to play for as long as I can and, hopefully, end up a hall of famer.”
If Hall, 24, doesn’t play another minute of pro ball, he’s already in the record book at PTHS. Phillip and Delma Hall’s son is the first Big Blue grad to earn a Super Bowl ring.
A mountain of a man at 6-0 and 295 pounds, Hall didn’t get to play in The Game. But it looked like the Arkansas State alum might.
The Ravens scored on the kickoff to start the second half, boosting their lead over the San Francisco 49ers, 28-6. The Bay Bombers looked like road kill, fresh carrion for the Purple Pain.
Had the score held up, or grown more lopsided, Coach John Harbaugh likely would have spelled his first-stringers and sent in backup players like Hall.
Then it was lights out. Much of the cavernous New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome suddenly went dark. “First, they said it would be five minutes, then fifteen,” Hall said. “It was 34 minutes. I just sat on the bench and chilled.”
San Francisco got hot when the lights came back on. An epic fourth quarter goal line stand by the Birds cut short an equally epic ‘Niner rally. The Ravens soared to victory, 34-31.
Even so, San Francisco made it nail-biting time for Baltimore boosters, including Hall’s parents, who were in the stands.
The Halls watched nervously as the enemy in red and gold drove deep into the Ravens’ red zone. With time running out, San Francisco threatened to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
At that moment, Philip Hall remembered the heartbreak of losing the game of his life. His sport was basketball.
It was David versus Goliath, and Goliath won.
Hall starred on the storied 1983 Carlisle County High School Comet quintet that lost the state basketball championship to perennial powerhouse Lexington Henry Clay, 35-33, in triple overtime.
“All of that came back,” he said. “I played for a championship and came up short.”
Phillip confessed he was worried his son might come up short, too.
Not Bryan. “I had faith in our defense,” he said. “We all did. We knew they wouldn’t waver.”
They didn’t. And no sooner did the game clock strike 0.00 than a blizzard of shiny Raven purple and gold confetti swirled down from high atop the stadium.
Phillip and Delma got to join the celebration on the confetti-clogged field. “I told Bryan, ‘Congratulations, champ, you’re the man now,’” Phillip said.
The Halls naturally wanted to see their man in action, if only for a play or two. Bryan wears number 95. “We were hoping he’d do something spectacular, like get a sack or hit somebody and cause a fumble,” Phillip said. “But we always keep our eyes on 95, no matter where he is, on the sideline or warming up.”
For more than a few days after the game, Phillip Hall said his cell phone was jammed with calls from happy relatives, friends, neighbors and his union brothers and sisters in Steelworkers Local 7-669 at the Honeywell uranium processing plant in Metropolis, where he works.
Meanwhile, Bryan and Phillip are quick to congratulate the fallen 49er foe, too. “They played a great game,” Bryan said. “They hung in there.”
He hopes to hang in with the Ravens. In 2011, Baltimore took him on as an unsigned free agent out of Arkansas State University, where he graduated in 2010.
Hall had played high school ball under head coach Perry Thomas, now head coach at Campbellsville University. “I owe him a lot,” Hall said. “When I came to high school, I wasn’t the best football player.”
Thomas chuckled at the idea that he made Hall a pro. “High school coaches don’t make NFL players. We might like to think we do, but we don’t. Bryan already had the talent.”
He said Hall worked hard to hone his football skills on the Tilghman practice field. “Bryan is a driven guy. At Tilghman, we helped him with the proper football mechanics, but we can’t take credit for his success.”
Maybe not, but Hall still bleeds Tilghman blue and white. Before the Super Bowl, he showed his colors on his Facebook page. He posted a photo of himself decked in a Tilghman hoodie in front of his dressing room locker deep in the bowels of the Big Easy ballpark.
“There’s a lot of pride and tradition at Tilghman,” he said. “I wanted to show that I still have Tilghman pride, too.”
In high school, Hall mostly played linebacker, helping anchor the Big Blue D and earning a trio of football letters. He got a scholarship to ASU, where he was a starter and star at defensive tackle.
Ravens records show Hall played in five games in the 2012 regular season and made three tackles. He said his first tackle in pro ball was extra special.
It was in a pre-season game against the team he grew up cheering for back in Paducah—the Philadelphia Eagles. “I was a big Donovan McNabb fan. I looked up to all of those guys.”
Now a lot of guys in Tilghman blue and white are looking up to the school’s only Super Bowler, who made a Ravens fan out of Coach Thomas.
“I didn’t have a favorite pro football team before,” he said. “Now I do.”
For a brief and shining moment—okay, maybe not shining—the Ravens practice squad had a pair of Tilghman teammates.
“It was a very, very cool experience,” said Hunter Cantwell, who quarterbacked the Big Blue offense while Bryan Hall helped back up the defensive line. “We were the only two Ravens who played together in high school.”
Cantwell has since moved on to Campbellsville University, where he is an assistant coach under Perry Thomas, who coached Cantwell and Hall at Tilghman.
Cantwell was released from the practice squad on Sept. 29, 2011. Hall officially made the 53-man Ravens roster on Sept. 1, 2012.
“We talked a lot about home and playing at Tilghman,” said Cantwell, who mentors Campbellsville quarterbacks.
Cantwell watched the Super Bowl and hoped Hall might get a chance to play in the game. “But it was great to see all of those guys I developed a relationship with win the Super Bowl.”