Putting DeAngelo Hall's football career into perspective

Retirement can have a certain finality to it. It’s why it’s so hard for professional athletes to utter those words.

For all intents and purposes, former Hokies and long-time Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall retired Monday, ending a 14-year NFL career. Then he walked it back a little.

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That seems to be a bit of semantics, unless Hall has some type of mentoring role as an active but not “active” player on a roster. Given the NFL’s tight roster limits, that’s not usually a thing in football.

But like Michael Vick, who didn’t officially retire until no NFL team signed him during the 2016 season, or Shayne Graham, who did the same in early 2017 after not latching on to a team in 2016, sometimes competitive athletes need the league to retire them rather than the other way around.

However it plays out, Hall maintains he’s played his last football game, capping a career that was among the best ever for a player who attended Virginia Tech. The eighth pick overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, still the highest a Hokie has been selected since Vick went No. 1 overall in 2001, Hall played 171 career games with 160 starts for the Falcons, Raiders and Redskins.

He made three Pro Bowls in his career, two with the team that drafted him (the Falcons in 2005 and ’06) and one with the team he spent the longest portion of his career (the Redskins in 2010).

He had 43 career interceptions, the most of any active player prior to his retirement. That’s tied for 63rd all time. He matched an NFL record with four in one game in 2010, a feat not diminished by the fact that he victimized Bears quarterback Jay Cutler all afternoon.

And he’s the only NFL player to return five fumbles and interception for touchdowns, a versatility that hearkens back to his Virginia Tech days. His 10 non-offensive touchdowns rank 18th all-time in the NFL.

Hall told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he doesn’t think he had a Hall of Fame career, coming up just short. Injuries limited him to five or fewer games in three of his final four seasons, all but guaranteeing that, but he still had one of the more storied NFL careers of anybody who came from Virginia Tech.

In terms of Pro Bowls, only Bruce SmithMichael Vick, Duane Brown and Kam Chancellor went to more. He was a primary starter for 10 seasons. Only Smith, Carroll Dale and Graham did so longer. Using the weighted career approximate value stat on Pro Football Reference, Hall had the sixth most valuable NFL career of a former Hokie, behind Smith, Vick, Dale, Brown and Antonio Freeman.

That’s quite an accomplishment for someone saddled with the “MeAngelo” nickname earlier in his career, who had a hasty exit from Atlanta and a tumultuous half season with Oakland before finding a long-term home in Washington. With the Redskins, he seemed to mature.

Hall’s football exploits go all the way back to his time at Deep Creek High and his All-American career at Virginia Tech. At a school famed for its success at producing defensive backs, he’s got a claim to being the best the program has ever had. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster still speaks about his athletic exploits with a reverent tone (Hall’s 40 time in the low 4.3s is among the fastest ever for a Hokie), and only Brandon Flowers, who was a two-time All-American, would even seem to have an argument to be in the same sentence as Hall as the best cornerback to come out of Blacksburg.

Above all else, Hall had a nose for the ball. When Greg Stroman had his run of various returns for touchdowns in recent years, Hall’s brilliance 15 years earlier came into full view once again. Stroman had six return touchdowns in his career (four punts, one interception, one fumble). Hall still holds Virginia Tech’s record with seven (five punts, one interception, one fumble), and he did it in three years.

That includes his most famous moment, the “Give it to me, Roscoe” strip and score when Virginia Tech put an emphatic end to Miami’s 39-game regular season winning streak in 2003 with a 31-7 demolition in Lane Stadium. Hall set the tone in that game.

Hall’s unsure of what he’ll do in the future, mentioning to reporters that he’s considering being a “TV commentator, assistant coach or front-office executive.” For those thinking he could come to Virginia Tech, consider that he made $77 million in his playing career, and a college assistant job — with its grueling hours and seemingly never-ending recruiting responsibilities — is almost never the post-playing destination for guys who made it big in the league.

Virginia Tech would be wise to have him around whenever it could, however. He’s got a picture on the wall in the indoor facility for a reason and seems like he’s a good ambassador for the program.

Whatever his future holds, his legacy at Virginia Tech has been cemented for a while: he’s one of the best to ever play for the Hokies.

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