Throughout Super Bowl week, Chad Hall has faithfully worn his Air Force sweat pants.
It’s his way of representing his alma mater and reminding himself how he got there in the first place.
As a recent practice squad call-up who has suited up once for the San Francisco 49ers, the third-year pro realizes there’s probably not a longer shot in this game. But Hall has always viewed himself as a something of a long shot, and he’s forever grateful for the role Air Force provided in giving him that shot when few other offers were there for the 5-foot-8 running back out of Atlanta.
“I owe the Air Force Academy everything in my football career,” said Hall, who will serve as a backup kick/punt returner and slot receiver for the 49ers. ”They put me on the platform where I could succeed and get to the next level. They also shaped my life.”
On Sunday, Hall will join a short list of Air Force players who have played in the Super Bowl. The others seem to share his perspective.
Chad Hennings, who won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, has said he holds his Air Force class ring in higher regard than his Super Bowl rings. Steve Russ, who won a pair of rings with the Denver Broncos, now serves under Troy Calhoun on Air Force’s coaching staff. He doesn’t wear his Super Bowl rings often, but he makes it a point to wear one during heavy recruiting periods.
“If that’s part of your dream, you can still come to the Air Force Academy and do that,” Russ said he tells recruits. “You’re still going to have to serve first, but that doesn’t mean that that’s going to be excluded from you.”
Hall served two years as an Air Force mechanical officer in Utah before catching on with the Philadelphia Eagles, splitting time between the club and its practice squad. He walked away from a chance to return, feeling his potential wouldn’t be realized there. Now, here he is, ready to play on the biggest stage in American sports.
“Coach Calhoun sent me a text today, jokingly saying that he hopes my ears aren’t burning because they’ve been bragging about me on the recruiting path,” Hall said Thursday. “Especially these past two weeks.
“Any way I can help is awesome. I love where I came from and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”