She didn’t want him to do it anymore.
Judith Green couldn’t bear to watch her son take the beating that came with the territory. So, after one season of Pop Warner, Leon Hall stopped playing.
He was already a star on the baseball diamond. The Vista, Calif., native played catcher, pitcher and centerfield. Hall even switch hit.
“We always knew he would have a future, if not in football, something, just from when he was little,” said Keicha Green, Hall’s oldest sister. “He’s not a quitter.”
Still, he wanted a crack at it.
He would have to wait until he got to Vista High School when Keicha, who became his legal guardian after his mother died, finally gave him the nod.
“I went ahead and let him do it, because I was like, ‘Anything to keep him out of trouble,’ ” Keicha said.
He didn’t play much as a freshman after he injured his foot while roughhousing with one of his cousins. It wasn’t until Hall’s sophomore year that his family realized his future would include the pigskin.
“He was really small,” said Margaret Green, another of Hall’s sisters. “Then, all of sudden, he started getting big and put his head in it. I guess he just got better.”
Got better indeed. Heading into his senior season at Michigan, Hall was placed on the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the best cornerback in the nation.
“I’m very excited (about the preseason awards),” said Hall, labeled a shutdown corner by teammates LaMarr Woodley and Mike Hart. “I appreciate all the love I’ve been getting from everybody. But at the same time, I realize that I’m looking for the postseason awards and the great bowl game we want to go to.”
Three games into the season, Hall has lived up to the attention. After Vanderbilt and Central Michigan ignored his side of the field, the senior cornerback showed his prowess against Notre Dame.
When Fighting Irish quarterback Brady Quinn tried to squeeze a pass into Jeff Samardzija in the fourth quarter, Hall jumped back across his body to intercept the ball and end the Notre Dame drive.
It was a highlight of the young season.
“He closed up. He didn’t show any emotion.”
Those are the words Edward Green uses to describe the 12-year-old Hall’s demeanor after his mother, Judith, died suddenly of heart failure.
Judith, a single mother, raised Hall and his three sisters. Hall’s mother, an electrician, got sick and stopped working after he was born – raising him and his sisters on a fixed income. Judith had a tendency to baby the young Hall, the lone boy in the family.
Hall spent his childhood spending time at the beach. He played T-Ball with his sister Margaret and visited his older sister’s house frequently.
In August 1997, Hall’s world changed.
His mom was gone.
“It made me look at things differently,” Hall said. “I was young, but at the time I was probably just thinking the world wouldn’t end. It really makes you realize that this person can be gone the next day. I embraced my family a lot more; I can’t take it for granted. That’s really what my mom was like. She didn’t take things for granted. I think it molded me to be how I am now.”
Hall, a shy but always smiling kid, couldn’t find a way to express his feelings after the death of his mother. Even as his family grew closer, Hall kept the pain inside.
His family especially saw his angst. On holidays, Hall’s birthday and his mother’s birthday, Hall would got quiet and depressed. Keicha makes sure to call him on those days just to check on him.
Each year, he opened up a little bit, and now, with help from his fianc