Though 58 years have passed since he graduated from Sugar Land High School in Texas, the legendary Ken Hall still holds three national rushing records and has seven other milestones that rank among the top seven all-time.
The most coveted record, perhaps in all of high school sports, is his career rushing total of 11,232 yards, which he accumulated from 1950-53. He's also still No. 1 in points per game, 32.9 in 1953, and yards per attempt in a single game, 47.3 in 1953 (11 rushes for 520 yards). See video from a 1952 game Hall played in, located at the end of the story
The 75-year-old resident of Fredericksburg, Texas, carries his fame with great humbleness. Except for a shoulder problem, he's in good health. He weighs just five pounds more than his pro weight of 220, but he says he's lost two inches off his 6-2 frame.
And if someone does break his career rushing record, Hall won't hold any animosity.
"I'd try to find his phone number and congratulate him. I've always thought it was possible," he told MaxPreps.
Eight years ago Michael Hart made a brilliant run, finishing his career at Onondaga (Nedrow, N.Y.) with 11,045 yards. Three others have cracked the 10,000 barrier: Kevin Parks Jr. of West Rowan (Mount Ulla, N.C.) ran for 10,895 yards, Traylon Shead of Cayuga (Texas) broke loose for 10,291 and Toney Baker of Ragsdale (Jamestown, N.C.) had 10,241.
This fall another outstanding runner, Johnathan Gray
of Aledo (Texas), could challenge Hall's career rushing record. He has 7,000 yards and would be a long-shot at best because he would have to average more than 264 yards a game and play a maximum of 16 games.
"I saw him on television in the state finals," Hall said of Gray. "That was some kind of show he put on – absolutely unbelievable. He's phenomenal. Quick, fast, with good size and he plays on a winning team."
Hall still ranks No. 4 all-time in total career yards (14,558), rushing yards in one season (4,045), average yards per game in one season (428.8) and average touchdowns per game in one season (4.8). He is No. 5 in career points (899), No. 6 in one-season points (395) and No. 7 in total yards for one season (5,146).
He is especially revered in the Lone Star State.
Dave Campbell, who was sports editor of the Waco Tribune Herald for 40 years and founded the popular Texas Football Magazine 52 years ago, is old enough at 86 to have watched Hall play in a high school all-star game.
Campbell told MaxPreps, "People still look to him as a beacon to what could be accomplished. He is a good spokesman and a very effective ambassador."
Texas Football Magazine managing editor Travis Stewart says that Hall "Historically is so crucial to the state. He put Texas football on the map and he provides a fundamental barometer for kids all over the nation. The eras are different, but as far as numbers go, it's still fun to put two eras together and match them. There's so much mystique around him. Whenever I hear his name, I still get shivers. A guy had a video of him (in a prep game) and I got goosebumps watching it."
Tom Wancho, exhibit planner for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, adds "Ken Hall sets the standard for outstanding high school football players in Texas. Even though he hasn't played a game in over a half century, people still know about him and his records. He's such a nice guy and not impressed with himself."
Adds Jay Black, curator of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, "Ken Hall's (career rushing) record – it's lasted so long at this point I don't think it ever will be broken. It would require a player to average 175 yards for a 16-game season for four straight years."
Despite the longevity of his records, Hall says, "I don't think about it until someone like (a writer) brings it up. There is a lot of pride. People keep bringing it up and it makes you recall things. It makes you feel younger. We played for fun. We never thought about losing. Kids today don't know anything about it, but their grandfathers do. I still get letters with a $20 bill saying, ‘Please send me an autographed picture of you.'"
Unfortunately, he has none to send.
Fast and a powerful runner, Hall picked up the nickname "Sugar Land Express" from a Houston sports writer and it has been his "handle" ever since. The Express is tough to derail because Hall's records have stood the test of time.
A good case can be presented that Ken Hall is the most decorated high school athlete in history.
* In 1953, he made the Wigwam Wisemen of Oklahoma All-American team.
* In 1983 he was enshrined in the National High School Hall of Fame.
* In 1983 he also made the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
* In 1994 he made the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
* In 2000 the Ken Hall Trophy first was presented to the National High School Football Player of the Year in conjunction with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
* In 2004, the 10,000-seat, $25-million Ken Hall Stadium was dedicated in Missouri City, Texas.
* Hall Lakes, a 40-acre subdivision in Sugar Land, includes streets named Ken Hall Blvd., Ken's Place and Gloria's Court (named after his wife). This is the area in which he was raised.
Sugar Land, now part of the John Foster Dulles consolidation, was a Class B school (fourth largest in size) with around 100 students in the top four grades when Hall was in school. Though he piled up yards at a small school, Hall could have had even greater numbers because he often sat out much of the second half in lopsided victories.
As an eighth grader, Hall claims that he "couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. I was so slow that all I wanted to do was play the trumpet."
However, entering his freshman year he had sprouted from 5-foot-6, 135 pounds to a solid 6-1 and 180 pounds. He also could run 100 yards in an outstanding 10.1 seconds after clocking in at between 12 and 13 seconds as an eighth grader. Though he played the trumpet very well through his senior year, he also launched a football career that would dwarf his musical talents.
Hall started as a T-formation quarterback and was on the losing end for five straight games. After that coach W.E. White was persuaded to switch to the Notre Dame Box and Hall – playing tailback – raced 75 yards for a touchdown on his first varsity carry in game No. 6.
"We didn't know you could run," Hall heard people say.
"I didn't know I could run, either," he confessed.
Now handling the ball on nearly every play, Hall was on his way to the Hall of Fame. Over the last three and a half years, the Gators had just one loss and one tie, finishing with a 46-6-1 record and three regional championships.Continue reading