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Delton Hall, Steelers Cornerback, 1987-1991

November 8, 2011
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Delton Hall:

 

 

 

 

First, can you tell readers what you are doing with yourself these days?

I’m working for Giant Eagle as a Supervisor/Shift Manager. I haven’t been able to work in five months though due to my football injuries. I had a total knee replacement recently. I can’t walk or sit for long now – I have to do lots of lying down.

Is the NFL helping at all?

I’m talking to the NFL now. I can’t talk much about it because I’m waiting to hear back. I’m disabled now due to the injuries – it’s not different from when I was on partial disability fifteen years ago. They denied my claim then and probably will now.

Why?

They say I’m still working but I’m not. I can’t walk all day on a concrete floor – that’s what my job requires. I would need to do that nine hours a day, five days a week. I can’t do that.

In 1988 I broke my right wrist – I hit some guy on the thigh and it just crumpled the wrist. I played with a cast the entire year. In 1989 I broke the other wrist overcompensating for the right one and wore a cast that year too. So I deal with those issues from those broken wrists too.

When you first got to Pittsburgh, who helped mentor you as a rookie, and how did they do so?

I would have to say Dewayne Woodruff and his family.  Dennis Winston and Tony Dungy and his family all helped me too.

How so?

Lot’s of talking (laughing).  They tried to groom me and guide me, but I had my own ideas. I wanted to chase women and go to parties. Like twenty-two year olds like to do.

I think I hurt my career drinking and staying out late.I didn’t get the proper rest I needed. I did all the workouts, don’t get me wrong. But the street life wore me down. Coach Noll always said not to burn the candle at both ends. I should have listened to him.

Why didn’t you?

I had the ultimate ego like most athletes – thought I was invincible. But you pay for it in the end. You just can’t see it when you’re playing.

Who were some of the toughest guys you lined up against in practice?

I had a lot of guys that were tough both mentally and physically. Stallworth, Lipps, Weegie Thompson, Calvin Sweeney. There were lots of tough, physical receivers that would challenge me on every play.

What did you need to work on most as a rookie?

I had the speed. I had to learn to watch just my guy and then to also have peripheral vision to watch for the running game too. Woodruff and Shell talked about having a bigger, broader view of the whole field and I had to work on that.

How were you at heeding that and other advice?

Being young you want to do it your own way. I got beat once doing it my way. You can be over-aggressive. In bump and run, I thought I was the best in the league. Every once in a while I tried to hit a receiver so hard I missed and let the receiver get behind me.

I needed an easier, softer approach sometimes. I’d get my licks on a guy. It was different for me but I still kept it physical. I’d hit someone even if they stepped out of bounds. If you caught something, you had to pay for it.

Do you think that physical style of play is what interested the Steelers in you in the draft?

I think the Steelers liked my physical, no-nonsense play on the field and my speed.

Tell us about some of the players that kept the team loose – and how they did so?

There were always 25-30 comedians on those teams. At times I was one of those guys.

Lloyd, Nickerson and Tyrone Stowe were the ringleaders.

Lloyd? That would surprise some people.

Oh yeah. Lloyd had some fun! He’d put baby powder in some of the guys’ helmets so it’d get all over their face.

They’d also take the soles out of some of the players’ shoes and put vaseline in there and put icy hot on their mouth pieces.

I remember Woodson got Hardy good one time. He put Atomic Bomb in his jock strap. Nickerson was so fired up and ticked off, ripping his clothes off. He was ready to kick Woodson’s ass (laughing).

Who were the leaders on those teams – who kept everyone in line?

Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley were. Woodruff too. They were serious guys – they took notes and paid attention to detail. Woodruff could joke too.

Tunch and I had a big fight in my first days of camp. I didn’t know he was the captain then. But the relationship grew as the season progressed.

How was your relationship with Coach Noll?

I got along with Coach Noll. He let us do our thing. He was real cool and collected. He’d get angry once in a while – like when it was third and long and we’d commit a penalty to give a team the first down. He’d get real mad about that.

What made you such a tough player on the field? Weegie Thompson says he’s still afraid of you!

Ha! He was a tough competitor. As I grew up I watched Mel Blount and Lester Hayes – I thought that was how you were supposed to play the game.

What do you think of the game now and how the NFL has made it a more pass-focused league?

I first thought the rules were the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. I was trained for years to be aggressive. Now they are taking away that aggressiveness from the game. Offensive players can lead with their helmet and do what they want. The defensive players were trained to go helmet to helmet. 

I was a true head hunter at Clemson. I was trained that way and played that way in college and the pros. How do you get guys to stop catching passes? You hit them and make them pay!

Any other thoughts for readers?

All those guys who sit on their couches and in the stands and criticize the players – I worked with a bunch of those guys – I tell them, come down and put on pads for one play versus these guys. It’ll change your mind.

You can have a career-ending injury on one play. Fans have the best seat in the house – and that’s a beautiful thing!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 19, 2011 5:03 am

    Thanks… a great read, especially as I am writing about Delton’s rookie season on my website.

    I hope you get some compensation from the league as you deserve it.

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