|St. Aug’s Alex Hall eyes roster spot with Panthers|
|Published Wednesday, August 6, 2014 7:57 am|
|PHOTO/PAUL WILLIAMS III|
|St. Augustine’s alumnus Alex Hall (left) is looking to reinvent his pro football career with the Carolina Panthers. Hall, a 2008 draft choice of the Cleveland Browns, played three seasons in the NFL before earning All-CFL honors with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he tallied 16 sacks in 2013.|
Alex Hall has an opportunity to beat the odds again.
The Carolina Panthers defensive end washed out of the NFL after two seasons with Cleveland and the New York Giants, then earned another shot after a pair of productive years in Canada. A St. Augustine’s graduate, Hall is accustomed to the label of long shot – he carried it into the 2008 NFL draft when Cleveland picked him in the seventh round.
“I feel like I’ve always been the underdog my whole football career,” Hall said. “Nobody really thought I could make it or achieve what I’ve achieved, so I’ve always felt like that.”
A seventh-round draft pick by Cleveland in 2008, Hall played in 32 games with the Browns and Giants from 2008-10. He has three NFL sacks – all during his rookie season.
Hall, 28, had a good thing going in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Panthers in April. With Winnipeg, Hall was second in the league with 16 sacks last season and a two-time CFL All-Star. More important, Hall learned his craft and the preparation it requires to play at a high level.
“It helped me out a lot,” he said. “It helped my overall game get better as far as pass rushing and helped me become a better pro to take more things into account, things I had to take care of. The overall experience was great.”
Hall, 6-5, 250 pounds, is back for another try at a job in the NFL. He adds depth behind Panthers starters Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who tied the franchise record with 15.5 sacks last year. Wes Horton and Frank Alexander, who will miss the first four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy are his main competition.
“I have high expectations,” Hall said. “I have goals to go out and achieve, knowing what I can do. The Panthers feel the same way – they brought me in to rush and be a productive player.”
That means getting to quarterbacks and being a disruptive force for a defense that was second in the NFL last year. Hall dominated in college, where he was a Division II All-American as a senior in 2007 and shares the school single-season (13) and career (26) sacks record, and holds the single-game (4.5) sacks mark. He did the same in Canada. The NFL, however, is a different game.
“It’s going to be tough,” Hall said. It’s a tough profession and it’s been like this since I’ve been playing. Since I’ve been playing in the NFL or CFL, my back’s been against the wall, so it’s nothing new. I’ll be all right as long as I do what I’m supposed to do.”
That attitude, honed in football’s outposts, have served Hall before and after the NFL. He’s using it as motivation to make a return to the sport’s pinnacle as if the odds are stacked against him.
“Especially coming from a small school, from a draft where nobody thought I could do it – even make the practice squad,” Hall said. “Everybody thought I was a camp body, but I was out to prove a lot of people wrong and prove to myself that I could do it.”
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