The winding road Marcus Hall’s been on the past five years resembles San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street or even Daytona International Speedway – constant turns. There were academic setbacks, an unexpected redshirt season and, of course, the infamous double middle-finger salute at Michigan Stadium.
The former guard’s name is etched in Ohio State lore for the incident during last season’s Michigan game. After 31 starts, a 24-game win streak and triumphs in the Rose and Sugar Bowls, Hall will forever be remembered for his meltdown in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, an example of the emotional battle played out every November. In the Buckeye State, it’s set off a meteoric rise for the least heralded of the senior offensive linemen.
Hall’s embraced his newfound celebrity, but he wishes the reasons surrounding his popularity were different. Instead of hiding behind a series of excuses, though, Hall owns up to his mistakes, calling the incident embarrassing and humbling.
“I just tell [NFL personnel] I got caught up in the moment," Hall said. "I don't try to give them a sob story or anything. I just lost it. I just feel like my love for this university and that game came out in the wrong way. I was just so wrapped up in this whole rivalry that I responded ‘below the line,’ as Coach Meyer would say.”
It’s come with a financial windfall. Recent weeks have been spent touring various Ohio outposts signing autographs, including the renowned Michigan photo, for as much as $25. On eBay, the signed photo is fetching $60.
“I just show up to the signings like every other player, and that’s what the fans want,” Hall said. “I love the Buckeye fans, and they love me.”
The real Hall is not the person seen throwing a tantrum on the sideline in Ann Arbor. He’s a soft-spoken, polite figure who got caught up in the moment. Going forward, Hall understands the Michigan game will be part of his legacy, but he would like his play on the field to have a voice.
“I don’t want to go back and try to point the finger like I wasn’t wrong. I was completely wrong for what I did.”– Marcus Hall
Friday afternoon marked the final time Hall and his offensive line mates performed together, and they did so inside the familiar confines of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. All four – Hall, Jack Mewhort, Corey Linsley and Andrew Norwell – were pleased with their performances at Ohio State’s Pro Day, which was viewed by personnel from all 32 NFL franchises and the CFL’s B.C. Lions.
But for Hall, the day represented a rebirth and opportunity to explain his transgressions to the more than 80 coaches, executives and front office personnel. Despite a relatively anonymous career, Hall was already on the radar of the attendees. He displayed an improved level of blocking, technique and fundamentals that could vault him from undrafted free agent to late-round selection.
At 6-foot-5, 313 pounds, Hall’s in tremendous shape. His body fat percentage is at its lowest after spending the past two months working out. Hall said he weighed as much as 330 pounds with 25 percent body fat when his career bottomed out as a sophomore.
“I feel I had a chance to show the scouts I could move a lot better than in previous years,” Hall said. “About a year ago, I started making this transformation.”
The most regret, however, is reserved for Nov. 30, 2013. All the events surrounding that day and what followed – ejection, suspension, scorn – are best seen in the rearview mirror for Hall. He doesn’t want people to get the impression that he’s humored by the incident and called his punishment for the Big Ten Championship Game – a loss to Michigan State – the toughest thing of his career.
“I can’t ignore it, because when I see the fans, they make it this big deal,” Hall said. “I’m like, ‘No, man, it wasn’t even supposed to be like that.’ I don’t want anybody to think that I’m proud of it.”
But if a negative situation can be flipped into a positive, Hall won’t sit idly by. He and his agent will investigate the possibility of securing rights to Hall’s likeness, which is not only featured in photos, but also on t-shirts, among other forms of memorabilia.
“I don’t want to go back and try to point the finger like I wasn’t wrong. I was completely wrong for what I did,” Hall said. “I feel like it’s good and bad. There’s publicity, but at the end of the day, we all know how bad it was. Obviously it hurt me. At this point, I’m just trying to stay positive and move forward.
“I want it to die down, but it probably won’t.”
Only when his NFL career gets underway. But even then, Hall will be sucked back to his past each November.