If you want to talk about legendary figures of the game of football, probably nobody is more of a legend than Kenneth Hall of Sugar Land, Texas. He has been called the greatest high school football player to ever live. Hall is credited with 17 national records and some of those still stand over 60 years later.
The Sugar Land Express rushed for 11,232 yards between 1950 and 1953. The guy just ran wild.
He only ran for 569 yards as a freshman. His sophomore season is when Hall really went crazy on the football field and he had 3,160 yards. 1952 was his junior year and he had 3,458 yards rushing. Those years were bonkers, his senior season was beyond imagination and he crushed defenses for 4,045 yards rushing. That’s more than a career for many good backs.
What’s really incredible about Hall is that he missed a lot of playing time in the late part of many games because they were such blowouts. Plus, in the 50s these high schools played way less games than they do these days. If a running back is on a good team today they may play 16 games, Hall played in 10 per season.
My favorite stat from Kenneth Hall was in 1953 when he rushed 11 times for 520 yards which comes out to 47.27 yards per carry. He also returned a kick off 64 yards and a punt 82 yards and intercepted a pass and ran it back for 21 yards. Combined total of 687 total yards. I am not sure my high school team could have put up that many yards against a Pop Warner team. Simply amazing.
One would think Hall was a little guy playing back in the 50s and running for so many yards but he was 6-1,180 to 190.
This is when the story goes downhill for Hall and becomes almost tragic. Hall signed with Texas A&M and it’s coach at the time, Bear Bryant. For some reason unknown to anyone, the Bear wanted Hall to be a LB. Hall had matured and become 6-1, 205 by then but he was no LB.
Years later, the Bear admitted his mistake but the damage was done. Kenneth Hall quit the team. The Bear is one of my all time favorites and one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game if not the greatest ever. But, that was not the greatest of moves.
Hall went to Canada to play and then was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and then bounced all over the league.
Through the years, there were many, many challengers to the records held by Kenneth Hall, the Sugarland Express.
Hall had over 100 yards rushing 38 times which was tied in 1966 by Steve Worster of Bridge City, Texas and then broken in 1986 by Emmitt Smith. (another legend) Some of those records have been broken, but he still holds several.
The biggest record, and probably considered the most important, was the career rushing record.
The closest challengers have been the most recent. Playing brilliantly, in the years 2000 through 2003 Michael Hart from Nedrow, New York rushed for 11,045 yards. Hart went on to play for the Wolverines of Michigan. Hart was 5-9,205 and rushed for a very nice and impressive 5040 yards at Michigan which could have been even more if not for a hamstring injury his sophomore season.
Hart played in the NFL for 3 miserable seasons with the Colts. He was injured pretty much the entire time.
He took a job as RB coach for Eastern Michigan, but then recently moved to take the same job at Western Michigan. He was the closest guy in 50 years of the record.
Kevin Parks rushed for almost 11,000 yards at Salisbury, North Carolina from 2006 to 2009, and he is currently at Virginia. where he has rushed for 2474 yards and 25 TDs with another year to go. he had 1031 yards his junior year and is back for his senior season.
Traylon Shead (6-2,225) from Cayuga, Texas rushed for 10,291 yards from 2008 to 2010. He signed with Texas but never played and transferred to a JC from there where he was an All American, and then to SMU where he did very little but has a year left to redeem himself.
Johnathon Gray rushed for 10,881 yards finishing up in 2011 and is now at the University of Texas. His high school team, Aledo, won 3 straight 5A state titles while he was there and he was pretty much unstoppable.
Gray (5-11,210) tore his achilles tendon midway through his sophomore season, but should be back in 2014 or he could redshirt. He has 1481 rushing yards so far in college.
While Gray was putting up huge numbers in Texas, an outstanding young running back was tearing it up down in Florida and he was one year behind Gray.
Derrick Henry would make his mark in the history and record books in 2012.
Henry rushed for 12,124 yards at Yulee, Florida. Henry is a different sort of cat than the rest of these contenders. He is super fast and he is way bigger than even the biggest linemen back in Kenneth Hall’s day. He is 6-3,238 and did I say he is fast?
Last year as a freshman at Alabama, Henry got 36 carries for 382 yards which is 10.6 yards per carry. He was particularly impressive against Arkansas with 6 carries for 111 yards with the highlight being an 80 yard run. Ask the Arkansas defense if Henry is fast
Also, even though the Tide lost their bowl game to Oklahoma, Henry had 8 carries for 100 with a 43 yard TD run and he had 1 reception for 61 yards and another TD.
Derek Tyson of ESPN Recruiting Nation wrote a nice article about Henry breaking the nearly 60 year old record at: http://espn.go.com/college-sports/recruiting/football/story/_/id/8640707/derrick-henry-yulee-fla-high-school-breaks-career-high-school-rushing-record
Kenneth Hall is apparently a class act and gave Henry a call after Henry broke Hall’s record, “He congratulated me and told me to always stay hungry and to work hard and make sure I get my education,” Henry said.
I do hope that Derrick Henry takes Kenneth Hall’s words to heart and especially the education part.
If it takes 60 years for somebody to break Derrick Henry’s record, I feel pretty confident that I won’t be around to see it. Kenneth Hall, record or not, will always be a legend in high school football.