BUFFALO • Now that Fisher DeBerry is big on text messaging, communication comes easier.
“He’s upgraded his technology,” Bengals assistant coach Jemal Singleton says with a laugh. “It used to be letters you got in the mail.”
Now that Chad Hall is an assistant coach in the NFL — overseeing the wide receivers for the Bills — the Air Force-in-the-NFL coaching fraternity has added another body. Steve Russ, Panthers. Joe Lombardi, Saints. Chris Beake, Broncos. Chris Gizzi, Packers. Singleton, Bengals. For now it’s a cool half-dozen.
“It’s a great thing,” Hall says. “The more brothers we’ve got, the more Air Force connections we’ve got, the more ideas we can share in the offseason. That brotherhood just gets stronger and stronger every year.”
Now that the Broncos play the Bills here on Sunday, we can discuss the natural evolution of one of Air Force’s greatest athletes — Hall, who ranked third in the nation in all-purpose yards in 2007, who cameo’ed as a Heisman candidate, who’s midway through his first season running his own room in the NFL. Did anyone really think Hall would fall off the map after his brief NFL playing career closed in 2014? Shoot, Andy Reid once said Hall one day would run for president.
Now the Air Force coaching tree has another limb.
“His work ethic, belief in one’s self, finding a way to get it done — that’s what’s going to continue to make him a good coach going forward,” Bills coach Sean McDermott says of Hall.
Plenty’s changed since the last time we heard from Chad Hall. He and wife Rose are the proud (and sleep-deprived) parents of Penelope Rose, who’s now 8 weeks old. Mom calls her ‘Penny,’ Dad calls her ‘Nelly.’ And plenty’s changed for Falcons with NFL dreams: Air Force athletes soon will have the option of delaying their postgrad service time in order to pursue pro careers.
Following a senior year in which he set an Air Force record with 275 rushing yards vs. Army, Hall didn’t have that option. He spent two years at Hill Air Force Base before signing with the Eagles in 2010, trailed by stops with the 49ers and Chiefs. He’s all-in on President Trump’s reversal that would provide priceless exposure for the academy and immediate pro-playing opportunities for Air Force graduates.
“It’s great for everybody,” Hall said.
“How I did it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have no regrets. Those two years of serving in the military, I grew up. I had to. I’m leading 150 troops,” Hall says. “My life for two years was that I worked for 12 hours, then I would train, eat, sleep. I was so disciplined, dedicated, motivated. I was all mission-first. But I was striving for something when I was not at work. When I got signed to the Eagles, all of those two years of just grinding and hard work, it was truly, really satisfying.”
As for the impact of the new guidelines on the Air Force football program as a whole, Hall said: “It will definitely help recruiting purposes. Guys might have a preferred walk-on spot to Ohio State (for example), but now (that) they can turn pro out of the Air Force, they might go that way instead. You’re still going to serve. That’s why you go there — to serve and be an officer. Everybody knows that. But if you can live your dream as an officer in the military, then live your dream in the NFL, why not go there?”
The close-knit dynamic between Singleton and Hall perfectly illustrates the bond of Air Force coaches in the NFL. Singleton began his coaching career at the Air Force Preparatory School and later joined the Air Force staff as the running backs coach under DeBerry. Hall was in his first bunch of running backs, and they quickly grew a bond.
“Makes me feel a little bit old now that he’s a receivers coach in the NFL,” Singleton says.
Bouncing ideas off each other is “priceless,” Hall said. When Singleton considered a leap to the NFL, Hall gave him “the best advice I got from anybody at that time.”
“Chad told me: ‘Hey, be you. Be the exact same person you were in college. Coach the same way. Guys are going to love you for that.’ So I did. I took Chad’s advice,” Singleton says.
And it’s almost weekly when Hall leans on Singleton for tips of his relatively new trade.
“I bump literally everything off him,” Hall says.
The circle of Air Force grads coaching in the NFL is growing. Who’s next?