Five minutes remained in Detroit Cass Tech’s regional final game against Macomb Dakota last November when junior quarterback Rodney Hall took the snap from center and took off.
“I was running the ball, I believe it was third-and-eight,” Hall said. “I got first down.”
It was the last first down Hall would get for Cass Tech, which played two games after the Dakota game.
Hall’s left foot was planted when he was hit by two Dakota defenders — one high and one low — and his body twisted. Because Cass Tech’s quarterbacks are mobile and often carry the ball, Hall has been hit hundreds of times. But never like that.
“I heard a pop,” he said. “I figured my ankle was broke. People kept telling me it would be OK and stuff like that, but it was my body and I knew something was really wrong because I heard a pop that I had never heard before in an injury.”
The pop was his fibula breaking, and a few days later Hall underwent surgery. He was a spectator for Cass’ 48-41 semifinal win over Canton and its 41-27 loss to Romeo in the Division 1 state championship game.
Tears streamed down Hall’s face before the championship game, and they were not tears of joy.
“That was the absolute worst,” he said. “It really hit me when they were signing the National Anthem. I couldn’t help but think that I’m not playing in the game and this is what we play football for.”
Hall endured a difficult second semester, and it didn’t have much to do with trying to rehab after his surgery.
“School was rough, too,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in that environment anymore. I didn’t want to be around Cass. Everybody was talking about the game. People were telling me if I had played we could have won.”
The rehabilitation process was long and tedious. Hall has only been running for about six weeks now.
“Running bothered me because I still have metal in my ankle right now,” Hall said. “I just now got used to it. Running was a little tough and we run a lot. Towards the end of running my body could keep going, but my ankle was just fatigued. I couldn’t go anymore because it’s hard to push off the ankle.”
Eventually Hall was able to work his way back to being comfortable on the field again.
Over the winter Hall, 6-feet-2, 210 pounds, committed to Northern Illinois. He has worked hard to become a more efficient passer and hopes he can be more of a passing quarterback than a running QB.
“I love throwing touchdowns more than running the ball,” he said. “After last season, I’m more open to throwing the ball than running the ball, I think. I’ll be just picking and choosing wisely. I just want to stay healthy so I can make it to the state championship and hopefully win. That’s the plan for senior year.”
On the surface, it is a good plan. Cass features the state’s best player in wide receiver/defensive back Donovan Peoples-Jones and a boatload of other talented players.
The Technicians also have a veteran quarterback who wants to be in uniform and not on crutches for the state championship game.
“I can’t wait because it feels like my last season was incomplete,” Hall said. “I can’t stop thinking about the state championship game, the outcome of last year. That’s going to be on my mind until the first game.”
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.
Meet the Technicians
Last season: 11-3.
Top players: WR/DB Donovan Peoples-Jones; DB/Slot Jaylen Kelly-Powell; Slot/DB Donovan Johnson; OT/NG Jordan Reid; TE/LB Zack Morton; LB Desean Boyd; OT Kelvin Ateman; QB Rodney Hall; junior DB Kalon Gervin.
State playoff record: 29-15.
Coach: Thomas Wilcher, 20th season (148-63).
Overview: The Technicians will be shooting for their seventh trip to at least the Division 1 semifinals, and they should make reservations now. Cass has a bit of everything, beginning with the top player in the state — Peoples-Jones — and a terrific secondary. The healthy return of Hall (Northern Illinois) should improve the offensive production.