Football: Former foes help Hall realize Hall of Fame dream
JOHNSTOWN Considering the punishment he dished out during an outstanding semi-pro football career, it might surprise his former opponents to learn that Joe Hall was reduced to tears when he learned he will be inducted into the AFA Hall of Fame.
The former Gloversville High School and Glove Cities Colonials standout running back will join 13 other former players when the 2014 Hall of Fame class is inducted next weekend in Canton, Ohio.
Hall recalls getting emotional when former teammate and long-time friend Rick Sager gave him the news in May.
“I’m sitting at home on Mother’s Day, getting ready to go to my parents’ house, and my wife goes to me, ‘Rick’s on the phone.’
“I go, ‘Rick who? What’s he want?” I pick up the phone, and he goes, ‘Joe, you’re in.’ I said, ‘In what?’ He says, ‘The Hall of Fame.’ My heart dropped. I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Stop messing with me.’ He said. ‘You’re in the Hall of Fame.’
“I believe I started crying on the phone. What an honor.”
Hall made such an impression on his opponents during his 12-year career with the Colonials that they spearheaded his induction process.
“The process started at last year’s induction ceremony, when Mike Galeo was inducted,” said Sager. “Dave Fleck was there, Tommy Manny was there. We were all sitting around the table, and we said, ‘Well, who’s the next guy from the area that deserves to get in?’
“Coach Fleck, the first thing out of his mouth was ‘Joe Hall. The toughest running back I had ever gone against.’
“The beginning of November, I got a call from Tom Manny who said ‘We’re going to push to get Joe in.’ Joe’s uncle Stanley [Leslie] put together a 50-page scrapbook and we sent it to the AFA Hall of Fame.
“Mother’s Day morning, I checked my e-mail and lo and behold, there’s the e-mail from the AFA saying the candidate has been accepted by unanimous vote.”
“I couldn’t thank those guys enough, to consider me,” Hall said of the players he battled in the 1970s. “Dave Fleck, Tom Manny, Mike Galeo, all of those guys thinking about me, putting me into the Hall of Fame. I made a lot of great friends when I played.”
The fact that his friends kept the news from him for months surprised the 62-year-old Hall.
“My uncle and all these guys — Rick, Dave Fleck, Tommy Manny — kept it a secret for a whole year. I had no clue,” Hall said.
When his uncle gave him a scrapbook of his career last Christmas, Hall never thought it as more than just a great gift.
”He presented it to me as a Christmas gift, for all the years from high school through the Colonials, I was really touched by that,” said Hall.
Hall has some great memories from his playing days in the Empire Football League,
“I really can’t think of any one game, because they were all exciting,” he said as he looked out on Knox Field, where the Colonials would play to large crowds. “The competition was great. When we used to play on this field, this place was packed. We had thousands of people here when we played. It was the thing to do on Saturday nights.”
Hall helped the Colonials win the EFL championship in 1974 and a title game appearance the following year.
“I would say I ran a little like Walter Payton,” Hall said of his running style. “I could hit the hole. I could get outside. I could run over you if I had to.”
After finishing his playing career, he turned to coaching. He spent eight years (2004-11) with the Amsterdam Zephyrs, as both an assistant and head coach.
The coaching stint opened his eyes to what he saw in commitment between his playing and coaching days.
“We couldn’t get guys to practice,” he said of his coaching days. “We’d get eight, 12 guys at practice.
“When we played, we’d play Saturday night, go out after the game, and coach [Don] Benton would have us practice on a Sunday, and we would be there. Some of us might have been hurting or hung over, but we were there.
“The difference is the closeness, the camaraderie. When we played, we did everything together. Now, its more about, ‘I’ve got to get stats.’ When I played, I wasn’t thinking about how many yards I was going to get or how many touchdowns I was going to get. All I cared about was playing with those guys, and winning the ball game. That’s what was great about it.”
As part of the induction ceremonies, Hall is required to make an acceptance speech. He already knows much of what he’ll say.
“It’s not just me, it’s everybody I played with,” said Hall, a 1970 Gloversville High graduate. “I didn’t make the Hall of Fame by myself. I’ve got to give credit to my linemen and the guys I played with. I really appreciate those guys, and I want to let that be known.
“The speech is going to be from the heart. It’s such an honor for me, and I’m just thankful.”