When an undesirable temporary job came across her desk at a
Tampa employment agency, Juli Hall never had to search her
Rolodex for willing candidates. Instead, she simply called home.
Her husband, Eagle defensive tackle Rhett Hall, was ready to
take on any assignment.
"He did everything that I couldn't get other people to do," says
Juli. "He didn't turn anything down."
Rhett's availability and eagerness stemmed from his inability to
land a full-time job in the NFL. His employment record includes
six appearances on the league's waiver wire. Since there were
bills to be paid, Hall was open for almost anything.
"One day I pushed a shopping cart around a supermarket and
loaded it up with frozen chickens, burritos and other goods to
help a marketing firm do research on packaging," says Hall, 27.
"I packed cinder blocks for a company that was putting a
satellite dish on top of a tower. Whenever I worked, I busted my
butt. I could earn up to $30 an hour, so it was worthwhile."
Each job reinforced Hall's perspective on the world outside of
pro football. "When you're a professional athlete, all these
kids ask you for your autograph, but it's not real," says Hall,
who worked on his father's construction sites during summers
while he was growing up outside San Jose. "A player's life is
much different from that of a guy digging ditches and trying to
make a living."
Despite being named an honorable mention All-America in both his
junior and senior years at California, Hall wasn't selected
until the sixth round of the 1991 draft, by Tampa Bay. He played
sparingly for the Bucs during his rookie year, only to be
released early the following season. Tampa Bay would recall and
then cut Hall four more times over the next two years. "Usually
the Bucs called with bad news early in the morning," says Juli.
"So we told our friends not to call early because it would give
us a heart attack. When the phone rang, we would just lie there."
The final wake-up call came from the 49ers last season. Hall had
signed with San Francisco as a free agent in June 1994, only to
be waived two days after the season opener. A week later the
49ers re-signed the 6'2", 276-pound lineman, and he went on to
start two games late in the year. In San Francisco's Dec. 17 win
over Denver, Hall sacked Bronco quarterback John Elway three
times. In the 49ers' three postseason victories, Hall
contributed another three sacks.
The Eagles signed Hall to a three-year, $2.85 million free-agent
deal last March and handed him a starting job on the right side
of the line. During a preseason game against New England,
however, Hall had trouble breathing, and blood clots were
discovered in his lungs. His resting heart rate, which normally
stands at 48, jumped to 106. Doctors put Hall, who they feared
would miss the entire 1995 season, on a program of blood
thinners to break up the clots. Hall finally returned to the
Philadelphia lineup two weeks ago against the Seahawks. In the
Eagles' 20-17 win over the Cowboys on Sunday, Hall, in his first
start of the season, had two tackles and a sack.
"This year was different from the other letdowns because my
health was in jeopardy," says Hall. "But I have no doubts that
when my football career is over, I can do something else."
Just ask Juli.
COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS The Eagle lineman has never been chicken about tackling new assignments. [Rhett Hall with shopping cart full of frozen chickens]