Aaron Hall takes long road back for Southern

As he looked down and panned his hand over a scarred right knee, Southern center Aaron Hall reminiscently pointed out the injury that ended his season in late October and then for all of spring practice, pushing him in front of one of the biggest obstacles he would have to face.

“See all these cuts? I was cut in about six places,” Hall said of the scars left from the surgery that came as the result of a rare and traumatic injury for any athlete: tears in all three stabilizing knee ligaments, the medial collateral ligament, the posterior collateral ligament and the anterior cruciate ligament.

“When you get hit like that, you don’t even see it coming,” Hall said. “I was hit from the side. It was just a little pain, but I knew it was serious once I got up and I couldn’t put any weight on it. It just gave out.”

Hall said that despite not being able to walk initially, he wasn’t really phased by the incident and at first was told on the sideline he may have only sprained his MCL. But one doctor’s visit and a devastating MRI later told a different story.

The news was tough and depressing to hear, the four-year starter said about first getting the diagnosis.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through in my life,” Hall said.

Hall, who began playing football at the age of 7, was not about to go down without a fight, though.

What followed: a concoction of November surgery, six weeks of therapy and plenty of rehab.

“I rehabbed for four to five months, they released me, and to be honest, I can’t tell the difference,” Hall said. “I feel like my old self.”

But regaining that strength didn’t come without committing to a grueling recovery process.

“It took a lot of hard work to be able to recuperate as fast as I did,” Hall said. “I went from workouts in the morning to going to therapy and rehab right after that. So I put in about three to four hours a day, five days a week for about five months, basically all of spring semester.”

The Baton Rouge native didn’t get there on his own.

Hall said the support of his family made a difference, and it always has.

His parents, Stephanie and Murial Hall, have supported him every step of the way.

“They don’t miss a game,” Hall said of his mother, a registered nurse, and his father, a police officer.

And Hall’s father is no stranger to life changing sports injuries. According to Aaron, Murial tore his ACL while running the bases in baseball as a high school athlete. “He said he still doesn’t feel the same,” Aaron Hall said.

Fortunately for Hall, he feels just as good as he did before. “Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like I’ve had any surgery,” he said.

Watching his teammates during spring practice fueled Hall to get back on the field as well.

“At the time I was doing rehab, they were doing spring football,” Hall said. “I didn’t feel left out, but I felt like I should have been out there. But I couldn’t be, so I was determined to make the turnaround as quickly as possible.”

There was also a new offensive line coach, Chennis Berry, who Hall wanted to be sure would value him as a player.

Hall said, “We got a new coach, so I was just determined to get back as fast as I could, but also be healthy.”

Hall’s ability to fully recover allowed him to continue his leadership and kept coach Dawson Odums confident in what he could do.

“I know my role,” Hall said. “I know that he’s counting on me. Although we have a couple of backups, I know I’m the guy. I know everything as far as the offense and getting people in the right place. I’m more of a leader, you know? Talking, communicating.”

Contrasting his more laid-back and reserved demeanor off the field, Hall said he’s vocal on the field, and understandably so as a center. He mentioned, “turn it up,” a saying he and his team use to signal increasing the intensity on offense and that is printed on one side of bright green wrist bands worn by the players and coaches.

And Hall turns it up each time he steps on the field. Hall holds himself accountable for leading his team and isn’t haunted by the thought of re-injury.

“I’m not scared. As long as I stay healthy, I know I’ll do great,” Hall said. “You just have to stay committed.”