“Adversity can give you the advantage when you respond correctly and when you adapt and adjust,” Roy Hall, Jr. says.
Hall, a former wide-receiver for the Detroit Lions (2010), New Orleans Saints (2010), and Indianapolis Colts (2007-2009) anticipated having a long, successful career in the National Football League. However, after a violent head-to-head collision with Cedric Killings of the Houston Texans during a routine kickoff back in September 2007, his entire trajectory changed.
“No matter how you prepare or how hard you work, there are just certain things in life that you can’t control,” Hall shared with Sports Gossip. The collision, which set Hall on an incredibly difficult journey over the following three seasons, left him with a third-degree shoulder separation, and Killings suffering a fractured vertebra in his neck.
Perhaps a blessing in disguise, Hall continued on, despite a knee scope in 2008 which kept him out for 12 games, and a microfracture surgery forcing Hall to miss the entire 2009 season. During his time with the Saints in 2010, Hall had torn muscles in his hip and was ultimately released by the team, leading to his retirement and transition to motivational speaking and philanthropy.
“Around that time, I read somewhere that ‘life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it,’” Hall recalled, “For three seasons I watched how people reacted when I told them I was hurt, or exposed teams to my injury history. I watched how players reacted to their own rehab–some worked extremely hard, while others suffered from depression.”
Once Hall left the NFL he chose to use his platform for a purpose, launching The Driven Foundation in 2008, alongside former Ohio State teammate and NFL player, Antonio Smith. The Foundation helps address the basic needs of youth in both Hall and Smith’s communities.
What started out as a football camp for kids, turned into a source of strength and guidance for kids who need support both at school and at home.
Both Hall and Smith come from similar upbringings. While Hall and his sister were raised by their mother since he was seven years old, Smith was raised primarily by his grandmother. “My father and Antonio’s mom both struggled with substance abuse, and Antonio had never met his father. Growing up in a home without a consistent father figure, and watching my mother barely make ends meet, was very challenging; especially because I was too young to do anything to help.”
Hall and Smith did what they had to do to survive, but “…when I did find myself in a position to help others, I teamed up with Antonio to start the Driven Foundation. We went from just hosting football camps, to full food outreach events and mentorship programs. Over the last 12 years we distributed over 1.25 million pounds of free food to over 9,000 Ohio families. We’ve created our own leadership and character-building curriculum for students 5th – 12th grade and we have worked with over 30 middle and high schools in Ohio with our program. Each year we also distribute over 500 backpacks filled with school supplies and give away 100 winter coats to students in need. Whatever we didn’t have as kids, we do our best to lighten that load for families in Ohio.”
The NFL, according to Hall, taught him how to leverage his platform for something greater than himself. “I’m the middleman; I’m the connector. By introducing privilege into poverty, I am able to convince people to serve with us that have more to give than most. What you have can either be taken away, or given away. It’s much better to give than to have something taken from you. Purpose is service.”
He took that Purpose a step further, using his experiences on and off the field to motivate and train people in corporate settings, bringing professional, tough love into the workplace.
“Many of the companies that bring me in to speak are looking to give their team a spark, and a source of long-standing inspiration,” Hall told Sports Gossip. “In business, the right spark for an individual could be worth millions to the company and multiplies exponentially if the entire team forms a new sense of urgency and cohesion. Executives are realizing it’s worth it to budget people like myself to help take their teams rise to the challenge and advance to the next level.”
Whether it’s teaching why you would want to arrive at work two hours earlier than everyone else, to looking for ways to continuously improve one’s sense of urgency, Hall believes that finding new ways to transform “actively disengaged employees” into actively contributing employees and executives is paramount.
“Negative disruptions are challenges that are unexpected, uncontrollable, or uncomfortable happening to you or around you, that directly affect your productivity,” he explained. “I call them wildfires. Obstacles that spread, attack, and take over everything around you. These disruptions could be extremely private and personal like declining health or illness and divorce.
Since Hall’s exit from the NFL over ten years ago, the game which has of course evolved, also has stayed the same. “It still comes down to blocking, tackling, catching and executing,” he explained. “Offenses focus on creating more mismatches across the field, but for the most part it’s the same. If you can learn how to maximize what you have and develop your talent, you’ll have success.”
Hall says he has been a huge NBA and NFL fan since he was a little boy, with his own small collection of NFL helmets that you could get from the 25-cent machines in stores back in the day. “I was in love with the logos; the color-scheme. The players. I didn’t know many by name, but my mom was a huge Cleveland Browns fan. She used to get so frustrated that they would always ‘run it up the middle’ instead of to the outside. I obviously learned later on in my professional career, that there was a reason certain plays were called at certain times. It’s actually pretty funny thinking about it now.”
It wasn’t until high school that Hall became set on playing in the NFL, rather than the NBA, earning 50+ scholarship offers from Ohio State, Harvard, Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, Penn State, and the list goes on. “For me, the writing was on the wall,” he said.
Today’s socio-political climate has inspired the former NFL player to do his best in becoming a light.
“This country needs love. It also needs tough-love. Tough conversations have to be had. Tough meetings need to be had. I had various large companies hire me to speak to their employees and executive teams about diversity and inclusion, and provide perspective. I’m more inspired than ever to speak and train professionals to just be better people. Hate stems from people hating a part of themselves that they want to change but they can’t or not having certain areas of their life at the standard that they desire. When you help professionals keep perspective, they perform better. When people are producing and less stressed, it opens up dialogue about things that matter most. When we learn to help each other, we can all win.”