|NFL DRAFT: Hall arrives in Cincinnati amid fanfare|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 29 April 2007 21:45|
The new Cincinnati Bengals cap that he donned for a photo shoot with coach Marvin Lewis was sitting on the table in front of him as he got up to leave the room.
``What do I do with this?'' he asked defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.
``It's yours,'' Bresnahan said.
Hall sounded surprised.
``Really?'' he said.
Really. And that wasn't all.
The Michigan cornerback got a cap and a commemorative white, black and orange Bengals jersey - his name on the back above a No. 1 - during a visit to Paul Brown Stadium on Sunday, a day after the team made him its first-round pick.
Television lights heated the interview room and he heard a cacophony of camera shutters when he entered wearing a conservative gray suit. A local radio personality described the scene live, making it sound like a big moment in franchise history.
Hall never flinched.
``I don't get too rattled,'' he said, after settling in behind a table. ``I'm that kind of person. I'm calm. I don't overreact.''
His temperament will be a big help in Cincinnati, where he was in the spotlight before his first practice.
The Bengals have drafted cornerbacks in the first round of the past two drafts, giving them a chance to have bookend pass defenders for years to come. Johnathan Joseph is expected to start this season along with 30-year-old Deltha O'Neal, who struggled last season.
Hall could quickly move into the No. 3 cornerback role, and might push O'Neal for playing time during the season. The Bengals were tied for last in the league in pass defense last season.
``We've developed instant competition,'' Lewis said. ``I think we're very fortunate in the past two years to get two young corners that have played at a high level, played very well, been very consistent. That's a big part of this game at this level.''
The Bengals desperately wanted a cornerback in the first round, and were thrilled to get a chance to take Hall - ranked as one of the top two cornerbacks available - with the 18th pick. They liked his experience, his ability, and his clean slate.
A team that had nine players arrested in a nine-month span had to pay close attention to character during this draft. Hall knew about the Bengals' problems with player misconduct before they picked him.
``It was never really a concern for me, the character issues,'' he said. ``Going into the combine, I told myself I wanted to go in and just be myself. My game and skills will speak for themselves.''
His demeanor impressed the Bengals, who can't afford to have another draft pick get into trouble. Six of those nine arrested players were draft picks from the past two years, including Joseph.
Hall's personality was shaped by his childhood difficulties. His father wasn't around much, and his mother died in her sleep when he was 12 years old. His sister took care of him for a few years, then he moved in with an uncle.
Relatives and friends attended a draft day party near his home in southern California on Saturday. After the Bengals took him in the first round, Hall got gifts from those closest to him.
Some high school friends gave him a photo of them walking to the middle of a football field as team captains. The next gift brought him to tears - a plaque with a photo of his mother.
``I don't really have any good pictures of my mom, so they found that one,'' Hall said, pausing momentarily as the emotions hit him again. ``It was just an emotional moment, especially considering the fact that she loved that I was playing sports and I loved that she made sure I was in sports.
``After I stopped crying, I set the picture down and told everybody that it was just motivation for me. And it's been like that ever since she passed. Before every game, I dedicate it to her.''