PULLMAN – Walking into Qwest Field, seeing a National Football League stadium in person, will be a new experience for many of the first-year Cougars.
But for one student assistant, it’ll probably feel just like home.
Cory Hall patrolled NFL secondaries as a safety for the last six years, the last two as a starter with the Atlanta Falcons. This year, however, Hall decided to walk away from it all. And instead of coming to Seattle for a game on Sunday – when the Falcons visit the Seahawks – he’ll be there on Saturday, when Washington State plays Grambling State.
He won’t be working in a glamorous role, either. Hall decided to give up his playing career, to leave a fresh, two-year contract sitting on the negotiating table, so he could take what is essentially a data-entry job 3,000 miles away. Being a student assistant is often the first step on the long road to becoming a successful coach, and that’s what Hall now aspires to be.
“The injuries really piled up last year,” he explained. “I played with post-concussion, my back, my knee, high ankle sprain. It took a toll on me. Every Monday on the medicine and rolling out of bed, couldn’t walk. I used to get on the Internet, click on NFL.com and see this former football player died at 40. I just didn’t want that to be me. I didn’t want to be the one with the arthritic fingers, knees, shoulders – can’t pick up my kids and throw them in the air.”
Hall played for Fresno State in the mid-1990s under secondary coach Ken Greene, who now holds the same title at WSU and helped get Hall the job while he works on finishing his degree in Pullman.
But it almost didn’t happen. The siren song of the NFL called Hall once again this spring, and for one May practice he was a member of the Washington Redskins.
“I’m going through the playbook,” he said, “and something just came to me: ‘I can’t do this no more.’ “
So he took Greene up on the offer to come to WSU and now spends his days breaking down game film and organizing the team’s playbook. Student assistants aren’t allowed to do any on-field coaching, so during most practices Hall is stuffed into an office working in front of a computer, not a tackling dummy.
“I think he’s making a statement that coaching is something he’s serious about,” Greene said. “He’s proven to a lot of people that that’s something he wants to do. You absolutely humble yourself when you come to this level. It’s a lot of work, and getting on-field time is difficult.”
Should one of WSU’s two graduate assistants land a full-time job elsewhere, Hall could step into that role, which involves some oversight of the scout team. Otherwise, he’ll have to continue helping the Cougars in any way possible, even if it means staying away from the field and not wearing NFL credentials on his sleeve.
“Cory’s kind of quiet about that. He’s not boastful or anything. He can’t coach; he can’t be on the field,” head coach Bill Doba said. “(But) he’s around our meetings and our players. He’ll be a real big aide, I think, in recruiting.”
Hall’s last NFL game was the NFC Championship tilt against Philadelphia in January. So watching the Falcons play their first game of this new season Monday night against those same Eagles was a strange experience.
But – even as Greene teases him about being a year away from a comeback, and even as the phone calls from NFL teams still come in from time to time – Hall said he sat on a couch watching the game and didn’t regret a thing.
“Coach Doba came up and was like, ‘Do you miss it? Do you miss it?’ ” Hall laughed. “I miss Sundays, but I don’t miss anything else. … Enough is enough. I’ve had it.”
Ticket sales climb
Ticket sales for WSU’s game Saturday against Grambling were at 44,000 as of Thursday night. That is up from the 37,000 reported from the day before.
Wide receiver Michael Bumpus could be a game-time decision because of an ankle injury suffered early against Nevada. The sophomore played the rest of the game but has been limited in practices. … Sophomore safety Husain Abdullah, who has struggled with a high ankle sprain, will make his first start of the year Saturday after junior college transfer DeWayne Patterson took his place for the first two games of the season. … Doba said defensive tackle Fevaea’i Ahmu and cornerback Xavier Hicks have staph infections, leading to a widespread cleaning of the WSU locker room this week … WSU will be collecting money at Qwest Field to help pay for college students displaced by Hurricane Katrina and taken in by Grambling. The Cougars are also asking fans to donate backpacks filled with school supplies at the game to help the students forced to relocate because of the storm.
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