Hall ready to defend pass
Leon Hall talks about his encounter with Chad Johnson in the Weekly Conversation.
Graham Bensinger interviews high-profile prospects leading up to next weekend's NFL draft. Today, he checks in with Michigan cornerback Leon Hall.
Graham Bensinger: How are you handling the anticipation?
Leon Hall: I'm trying not to think about it, which is hard. I'm doing as much as I can to make the days pass by faster by working out, having fun, and hanging out with my friends. I'm just waiting for the day to come.
Bensinger: What's it like not knowing where you're going to live for the next 10-20 years of your life?
Hall: It's kind of scary because you don't know what's going on. It's just one of those times that you want to enjoy though. I'm sure wherever I go I'll have a good time.
Bensinger: Let's say you have the choice of going to any city based on weather and environment. Where would it be?
Hall: Somewhere in California. I've been a 49ers fan forever. It would be great to go there, but obviously I don't have a choice. My preference would definitely be somewhere on the West Coast. I'm not going to complain about any place with great weather.
Bensinger: A long time 49ers fan, huh?
Hall: Yes, sir. My cousins and I have been 49ers fans ever since we were growing up. We used to get a little grief about it because our uncles were either for the Chargers or Raiders.
Bensinger: Your favorite 49ers' memory.
Hall: I was 10 years old when the 49ers played in the Super Bowl in 1994. It was sitting back, watching, and enjoying the game with my cousins. At that time, I wasn't thinking about going to the NFL. It's kind of crazy looking back at it that maybe one day some other kid will see me playing on the TV like that.
Bensinger: What teams have you met with?
Hall: Between the combine, Senior Bowl and these visits during the last few weeks, I've probably met with most, if not all of them.
Bensinger: How were the visits?
Bensinger: Obviously there are questions that teams will ask every single player, but what's the most common Leon Hall-specific question that you're asked?
Hall: Everybody knows that I'm from Southern California. I always hear, "What made you go to Michigan?"
Bensinger: And what's your response to that? Because obviously you were heavily recruited by USC ...
Hall: It was really for a lot of reasons. I could have gone to USC or UCLA. Both are great places to get an education and have good football programs. The thing that set Michigan apart is that I wanted to be away from home. At the end of the day, it was really the only place that I wanted to go. I used to picture myself in certain uniforms and I couldn't really do that unless I was in maize and blue.
Bensinger: Aside from seeing the facilities, meeting the coaches and talking to folks, what else to do you do on visits?
Hall: That's pretty much it. You probably have lunch with your position coach. Sometimes you get to see the stadium. You watch and critique film. I was obviously critiquing Michigan film. We'd talk about coverages and what we were doing on various plays. Then, other times, we'll just turn on the film of the respective team. I watched Cincinnati's film, and the other day I was watching the Titans' film. I also asked questions about what they like to run on defense. That's pretty much it.
Bensinger: So what team had the nicest facilities?
Hall: I'd probably have to give the nicest facilities to Detroit. I think they were new. They were really nice.
Bensinger: Who's the one person you were most excited to meet?
Hall: In Cincinnati, I was sitting there watching film with the DB Coach and Chad Johnson happened to walk in. I didn't know I was going to meet him. We were sitting there watching it together and Chad put on some of his one-on-one. The past couple years, I've watched him on Sundays after our games. It was really kind of cool to be sitting in a room with him and watching his one-on-ones. It set me back a little bit. It made it seem like more of a reality to me that this thing was happening.
Bensinger: What did Chad say to you?
Hall: Chad is Chad. He was joking and laughing a little bit. He was trying to get me some cleats and get me out on the field against him to see what I was really like, but they didn't let that happen. He's a cool guy. What you see on TV is definitely who he is. That's why I like him.
Bensinger: Why didn't they let you get cleats to go out there with him?
Hall: I don't know. They didn't want me to lock him up! No, I'm joking. Don't tell him I said that! (laughs) I guess he has a thing with all of the DBs the Bengals sign in the draft. He brings them their own pair of cleats and makes them go up against him their first day. He told me if I went there he would have a pair of cleats ready for me. We'd get some one-on-ones going.
Bensinger: In interviewing players during last year's draft, there were instances when I'd talk to a player following a meeting and the team essentially guaranteed him if he was still on the board when its pick came up he would be selected. Come draft day, that didn't end up being the case. Have teams made similar remarks to you and left you wondering if it was really true?
Hall: I've felt that way a couple times. Teams will say they really like you and that you may not be there when they pick, but if you are they will definitely consider you. They're never saying they're going to pick me, but it's somewhere along those lines. I take it with a grain of salt, really. It's nice hearing stuff like that, but everybody knows that anything can happen. People trade up, people trade down, some people slide, and others get drafted ahead of where they thought they might be. That's why I'm just going to wait for the day to come and see what happens.
Bensinger: What aspect of your game are you most proud of?
Hall: My technique. Playing smart and tough. Those are the top three things that our defensive coordinator and position coach really preached at Michigan. It's playing fast, hard and tough. I definitely pride my game on that kind of stuff.
Bensinger: How about the aspect of your game that you have the biggest room for improvement?
Bensinger: What's your most memorable college experience?
Hall: During my freshman year, running out of that tunnel with 110,000 people [in the stands] and touching the banner. It was really my whole freshman year. My first interception, first tackle, and being Player of the Game one week against Purdue. I had a great time.
Bensinger: Your fiancée Jessica Cobb is going to be mad ...
Hall: Yeah, you're right ... but we're talking about football.
Bensinger: (laughs) When did you propose to her?
Hall: Actually, I met her my freshman year so it all comes together. It was just a great year. I proposed to her about 14 months ago on Valentines Day.
Bensinger: How'd you pop the question?
Hall: If I told you, it wouldn't be as exciting because it's a long story with a couple of inside jokes. She didn't know it was coming. We cooked dinner at her house together and we're just enjoying the night. I eventually popped the question.
Bensinger: Where will you be getting married?
Hall: We'll be getting married in Detroit on July 14th. (Cobb's hometown)
Bensinger: What happens with the honeymoon, since it's so close to camp?
Hall: There will be time, but we talked about it and it can wait a little bit. I'm going to want to be getting ready for the camp coming up at the end of that month. It's not a definite right now, though.
Bensinger: How's the degree coming?
Hall: It's coming along. I've got six credits left with my major in general studies with an emphasis on communications. I'm taking those online right now. I should be done with those before the summer ends. I should be in good shape.
Bensinger: It's been a long way coming. I read that your father was absent while you were growing up and your mother passed away when you were young. What effect did that have on you?
Hall: Losing my mom when I was 12 years old was rough. Anybody that loses a mom is going to have a rough time. Really, I look at the positive things. I have three older sisters and it bonded us together closer. I moved in with my older sister and her kids. We were around each other a lot more and made each other stronger. I always try to look at the positives because everybody knows the negatives.
Bensinger: How proud would your mother be of you today if she could see all that you've accomplished?
Hall: I definitely think she'd be real proud. When we were younger, I used to play baseball and basketball. I was on a couple of traveling squads. We may have not had a lot of money, but she always made sure I had the money for that stuff. I know she'd be proud. Ever since she passed, when they're singing the National Anthem during the games that I'm playing in, I always dedicate it to her. She hasn't failed me yet. I'm definitely trying to make her proud. Really, the job is not done yet.
Graham Bensinger is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Visit his Web site at: TheGBShow.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org