Marcus Hall thought he had his sports future all mapped out. Go to Glenville, play basketball, earn a college scholarship and make it to the NBA.
Then Ted Ginn Sr. flipped the script on him.
Ginn Sr., Glenville's legendary football coach, witnessed Hall balling on the basketball court as an eighth-grader and blindsided the youngster.
"He told me I was going to be a millionaire," recalls a still-awestruck Hall.
But Ginn Sr. wasn't talking about Hall's hoop skills. Having coached a number of gridiron standouts, including his son, Ted Ginn Jr., and 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, both of whom are now in the NFL, Ginn Sr. without a doubt can recognize football potential - and he saw it in Hall.
Then 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, Hall had never even played organized football. Too big to participate in the youth leagues, he turned to hoops. But even though he had never stepped on a gridiron, Hall knew who Ginn Sr. was because of the success he's had at Glenville and the good he's done for kids in the community. So when the coach dropped the aforementioned praise on him, Hall understood Ginn Sr. wasn't blowing smoke.
"I just looked at him and my mouth dropped," says Hall. "That meant a lot to me because anybody can say that, but with the reputation he has of getting players to [college and the NFL], it was big."
"With his athletic ability and the size he was, it was a no-brainer," adds Ginn Sr., who's in his 12th season as Glenville's head coach.
Ginn Sr.'s words resonated so much with Hall that he gave up hoops for football once he arrived at Glenville. And it looks like he made the right choice. Now a 6-foot-5, 300-pound senior offensive tackle, Hall is rated the state's top offensive lineman in the ESPNU 150.
Hall played JV his freshman season and immediately impressed his coaches with his natural skills at tackle. But even with his incredible
athleticism and footwork, Hall was a long way from becoming the prospect every major college coach would eventually fawn over.
"He was an unfinished piece of artwork," recalls varsity offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Chinchar. "A beautiful piece of artwork, but still a lot to finish."
Though raw in his skill and technique, Hall absorbed every bit of knowledge thrown his way - so much so that varsity assistant Anthony Overton says he was the JV team's best offensive lineman by the fifth game of his freshman season.
While his ascent on the line was rapid, Hall wasn't so quick to embrace the position. He had initially tried out at tight end upon arriving at Glenville. When that didn't work out, he gave tackle a shot and eventually fell in love with playing in the trenches.
"I first thought it was just the fat guys who just blocked and didn't get the glory," Hall says with a laugh. "Me being the youngster that I was, I wanted the glory. I wanted to be the guy to make the plays. Right now, I actually enjoy making a play work (more) than making a play. If I had a choice now, I'd choose offensive line over tight end any day.
"That's my glory now - when the other guys score touchdowns."
Hall credits some his early success as a freshman to a pair of seniors:
offensive lineman Bryant Browning and defensive lineman Robert Rose, both now at Ohio State. Browning took Hall under his wing and gave him pointers, while Rose went head to head against the young lineman in practice.
It was in those battles against Rose where Hall showed his now
trademark tenacity. Hall often lost those one-on-one matchups, but he didn't embarrass himself either thanks to an intense competitive streak. However, that streak also posed some problems for Hall early in his career, and he sometimes received penalties for blocking after the whistle.
Hall has since learned to channel that aggression, and he's become a better player as a result.
"When you meet Marcus, he's such a quiet kid - just the perfect kid," says Overton. "But he has this mean streak that he doesn't present off the field. He has that Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan mentality. He's so polished off the field, but he's so competitive on it."
"I'd describe my blocking as nasty," adds Hall. "I just go out and try to destroy guys and go to the next level if I can."
Hall's blocking last season helped Glenville rack up 3,711 total yards (2,374 rushing and 1,337 passing) as the Tarblooders went 10-3 and were edged by Mentor, 41-40, in the Division I regional finals.
Chinchar tabulates blocking grades for his offensive linemen. To get a plus, a Glenville lineman has to excel in all three of the following
categories on a particular play: knowledge of assignment, effort and appropriate technique. Otherwise, the player gets a zero. The plusses are tallied at the end of the game and divided by the number of plays. Last year, Hall graded out at a stellar 88 percent.
Hall's continued improvement in his blocking fundamentals and his physical skills has college football coaches drooling. At press time, he was looking at the likes of Illinois, Ohio State, USC, Michigan, Miami, Indiana, Florida State and LSU. He can already bench press 320 pounds, squat 315 pounds 11 times, run the 40-yard dash in 5.12 seconds and the short
shuttle in 4.89, and dunk a basketball.
"There's not many kids in the country like him," Ginn Sr. says.
Hall likes to show off his basketball skills from time to time to prove he can still ball. But his singular focus is now on making it to the NFL,
not the NBA.
Plans have changed, and Hall can give you a million reasons why.