Honoring Sergeant Hall
Don't hold me to this, but this is how I remember it.
David Little, our youngest son who is a 38-year-old Austin lawyer with three young kids, had just been recalled from inactive duty status to serve as a major in the United States Marines in Iraq. He is serving as a JAG lawyer in the volatile Al Anbar province.
I had talked often with Ahmard Hall about David, since they shared the bond of Marines. David had just left when I ran into Ahmard outside the football offices and told him David was on his way.
With a look of compassion, caring and concern, his bright eyes flashed.
"He will be watched over," I remember him saying.
You could take that a lot of ways, all of them positive. But what I know most of all about Ahmard Hall is that he epitomizes the motto of the Marines: "Semper Fidelis."
That is why it was so gratifying to hear that the Big 12 Conference had chosen him as the male athlete winner of the 2005 Sportsmanship Award.
For the record, here is the criteria:
1) Nominee must have demonstrated consistently good sportsmanship and ethical behavior in his daily participation in intercollegiate athletics.
2) Student-athlete must have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports competition setting.
There are a couple of other house keeping items, such as being in good academic standing and having been a member of a team during the 2004-05 school year, but those are standard on any award punch list.
In a day when there is a lot of negativity in our world, Ahmard Hall's story is heartwarming. On September 11, 2001, he was on a ship on a tour of duty in Kosovo.
That day, he reassessed his life.
His dream had always been to play college football, and his old teammate at Angleton, Quintin Jammer, was a star player at The University of Texas. That day, Hall determined he would fulfill that dream. He went on to serve as a Marine Corps sergeant in Kosovo and in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
By the time his four year term was over, he had attained the rank of sergeant, and had earned enough credit to attend The University of Texas on the G. I. Bill. He is married. He and his wife, Joanna, who is also a Marine reservist now, have a two-year-old son, Mason.
When he approached Jeff Madden and the Texas coaching staff about walking on to the Longhorn football team, his condition was astounding. Marines are like that. His work ethic soon manifested itself as well, and by last fall, he was a member of the kickoff teams and was earning a spot as a back up fullback.
Meanwhile, both he and his wife were working to make ends meet. Despite not playing football for four years before he returned to school, he will enter the 2005 season No. 1 on the depth chart at fullback. He has played the game with passion, but he has treated his teammates and his opponents with respect. He works with community service, and is a constant inspiration to younger Longhorn players because of his work ethic, and his life's path.
Prior to the Texas-Arkansas game in Fayetteville on the third anniversary of 9/11, Hall was asked to lead the team on the field with the American Flag. He did it every game following that, including the Longhorns' historic appearance in the Rose Bowl.
At the Longhorn football banquet, Hall was chosen to receive the inaugural Pat Tillman Award given in honor of the former NFL Player who was killed in action, but he wasn't there to receive it. Instead, he was home baby-sitting so his wife could work overtime hours to earn credit so that she could make the team trip to the Rose Bowl.
Hall is currently in the inactive reserve, but could be recalled to duty at any time, and he knows it. When he finishes his degree, he will still have a military obligation remaining.
Right now, he is the Longhorns' high profile representative as a statement to patriotism. When the Texas Legislature honored the team for its Rose Bowl Victory, Hall was one of two players they asked to come to the House floor to accept the award. As a Veteran's Day project last year, Hall helped the Longhorns organize a drive to provide care packages to the Marines in combat.
The Big 12 is giving this award to a guy who is a real American hero. He is a dedicated husband and father, an unselfish and caring teammate, and a proud Marine.
They say "the Lord helps those who help themselves," and Ahmard Hall has certainly done that.
But what we know most of all, when it comes to "watching over" folks, Ahmard Hall is both a participant, and a recipient.
Semper Fi, Sergeant. This one's for you.