During his grade 12 high school year, Hall was just beginning the process of being recruited by Canadian university football coaches — when a major curveball was thrown his family’s way.
“As I am starting to enjoy the whole process of having coaches call, our family was shaken, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Hall. “That really changes your priorities, so we came together as a family.” It was December 2006 when Hall’s mom was diagnosed.
The talented linebacker decided he would stay close to home and attend the University of Manitoba – a big part of the decision was his mom.
“I knew when it really came down to it the most important thing to me was my family,” said Hall.
“Why us we’re good people, we don’t deserve this it’s not fair, but then we decided let’s make the best of a bad situation,” said Hall. “We went out and started fundraising which showed support for our mom.”
Hall and his siblings helped to raise over 27,000 for a cancer event in 2007, which was being run in Winnipeg. A year later the event was in danger of being cancelled.
“It was too important to us and we thought there is going to be other families who will go through the same thing,” said Hall. “They need an event to pour their negative emotions into – there is rage there is sadness, there is all of these emotions. But if you can push them into something positive then it made a world of difference.”
Hall and his family worked with the board of directors of cancer care Manitoba and formed the Challenge for Life campaign, which is now going into the fourth year of existence and has raised a million dollars in each of its first three years.
“The team was hugely supportive of the Challenge for Life,” said Hall.
The bison linebacker would win the Russ Jackson award in 2009 for his efforts with the cancer foundation. The award is handed out to the CIS football player who best exemplifies the attributes of academic achievement, football skill and citizenship.
“Truly one of my weaknesses is I always say yes to people,” said Hall. “I say yes to things that I love doing.”
Hall became the fourth double recipient of the Russ Jackson award in 2010. This past year a major reason for Hall winning the award was for his involvement in Project Echo.
“It’s a community based organization in Winnipeg,” said Hall. “Its truly about aligning good people, good businesses who want to be responsible and accountable to there communities.”
Project Echo helped to bring Christmas to 20 different families in the Winnipeg area in 2010 – bringing crates of food, canned goods and more.
“Probably the most powerful experience of my life,” said Hall of the project. “I was moved to tears as these families stand and there eyes and jaws drop as we bring in box after box. One of the fathers turned to me with tears in his eyes and said thank you so much. You can’t replace those experiences.”
Somehow with all of his time spent devoted to charity and football Hall still found time to be named a two-year CIS Academic All-Canadian in the classroom with kinesiology as his major.
“Over the years I have gotten a pretty good idea of what work I need to put in with each course,” said Hall. “Its about finding pockets of time.”
And the reason Hall is in Toronto this weekend, he has worked himself into a top-level football player and a pro prospect – among his many other undertakings.
“This CFL dream has been with me since the first time I strapped on pads at 10 years old,” said Hall. “I told myself, when I got out here, I know in my heart that I could not of done one more thing to prepare and that’s what drove me the whole time.”
Hall admitted he has never been a football player who tests very well, but he knows how important speed will be in being successful at the pro level.
“The CFL game is all about speed, especially at linebacker you have to be able to run,” said Hall. “On the field I feel I play at a pretty good speed. I want to be able to have that translate into my testing.”
The Manitoba bison will have met with Montreal, Hamilton and BC before the E-camp weekend is over.
“I have confidence in my football abilities,” said Hall.
As the linebacker tries to show his worth as a football player, he is spurred on by the fact that his mom was given a clean bill of health – after battling breast cancer for five years – just one week before E-camp.
Justin Dunk is a former quarterback for the University of Guelph Gryphons. He is currently the Sports and Health Editor for The Ontarion, the University of Guelph’s Student Newspaper, and the host of GryphTalk Fridays at noon on CFRU 93.3FM.He has also blogged for The Score’s University Rush. FollowJustin on twitter @JDunk12.