"But you know what the real key was? The guys who were doing wrong. The guys who were selling drugs, who dropped out of school. They were the ones who made me walk in that right direction. They encouraged me not to follow in their direction. If I needed some money, they gave it to me, instead of me going out there trying to make a hustle, sell drugs, whatever.
"Evidently they saw something in me that I didn't see in me. As I was growing up and maturing, I realized. And I appreciate it, because I could have been selling drugs or in a gang or probably dead."
Hall's grandfather, Jette Byrd, was a top sprinter in the city. His father, Nelson Hall, was a pole vaulter. So he was proud to see his son flourish on the track, winning the state title as a senior. For college, Hall went to Blinn JC in Texas. In the now-defunct program he improved to world-class levels in his first year. "I never grew up thinking that I was going to be in the Olympics," Hall says of that time. "I just turned my life around in one year." After his second season at Blinn, he made the Olympics as a relay alternate, and won a gold medal for his work in getting the U.S. team through the heats. That's when he had the Olympic rings tattooed on his arm.
Finished at Blinn, Hall was faced with a decision. "You had two opportunities," he explains. "One was to transfer to a Division II school, because we didn't have the grades to transfer to Division I. Or try to reach the next level, where the big boys run. The program we had at Blinn, you were so prepared physically and mentally that you were ready for it. If you had a strong mind, you were ready to step to the next level.
"I had a game plan. I was going to come home and train, and get ready for the Olympics." With his father as his coach, he did just that.
Point out to Hall that his choice would have been a sure recipe for disaster for the vast majority of 21-year-old athletes, and he says, "I'm an individual person. I like to control my own future. I realize I'm kind of lucky, but I like it that way. I have a strong mind. I have a strong heart. If my legs are going to break down, I think my heart will finish. It's just the person that I am. Sometimes I wake up and tell myself, 'I am special.' Once I realized that I was special, the rest was history."
Hall stayed in the mix during 1993 and 1994, but last year he came a lot closer to the top. He captured the World Indoor title and ran hot outdoors, taking 3rd at nationals and improving to 44.34 during a string of four straight wins in Europe prior to the Worlds.
In Sweden, Hall looked like a sure medal threat until the draw for the final put him in lane one. He tried to compensate for that disadvantage by going out at full speed. He tied up near the finish and only managed 44.83 for 6th. He took the result philosophically. "That was just a learning experience and that was something that I needed," he says. "I just took it as it was. I wasn't too down about it. I know what I was capable of doing. I'm young. You take those things as they are and you just learn from them."
These days Hall trains on the track at Berkely High School. His current mentor, Calvin Johnson, coaches the high school team there. Johnson is a national masters champion in the hurdles.
Hall is trying not to get too excited about the Olympics too soon. "I'm just going to take it as another year," he says. "I'm not going to put too much emphasis on it. I know what I have to do. I'm real confident on what I'm able to do. The hardest part is just sitting around waiting.
"I'm mentally stronger than I ever have been. I'm physically stronger. I am the total package now."
Born September 26, 1971 in Detroit, Mi 6-0/1.83m 175/79kg Pershing HS (Detroit) '90 Blinn JC '92 Powerade AC PRs (outdoor): 300--32.57 '92 400--44.34 '95 PRs (indoor): 200--21.25 '94 400--45.61 '95 Major Meets (400): 1991 1)JUCO Indoor 1991 2)JUCO 1992 1)JUCO Indoor 1992 dnc-f)JUCO 1992 6)Olympic Trials 1993 4)USA Indoor 400 Trials 1993 7)USA 1994 1)USA Indoor 1994 6)USA 1994 6)GP Final 1995 3)USA Indoor 1995 1)World Indoor 1995 3)USA 1995 6)World Championships 1996 4)USA Indoor Major Relays 1991 1)JUCO Indoor 4 x 400  1991 2)JUCO 4 x 400 1992 2h)Olympic Games 4 x 400  (US won gold in final) 1993 1)World Indoor 4 x 400  1995 1h)World Championships 4 x 400  (US won gold in final)