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Avenger Gives New Meaning to Survivor

Arena football: Hall, a lineman-tight end, plays on after career-threatening injuries and near-death experiences.

May 04, 2000|MIKE TERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Whenever the struggling Los Angeles Avengers, who have lost all of their three games, believe they are going through tough times, they'd better check in with Victor Hall.

Now in his seventh Arena Football League season, Hall, 31, has overcome more obstacles than most people would in three lifetimes.

A 6-foot-4, 265-pound lineman and tight end, he has gone through two shoulder surgeries, reconstructive ankle surgery, thumb surgery and Achilles' tendon surgery to keep playing football.

But those were minor interruptions compared with one he had in high school. The Anniston, Ala., native was involved in an automobile accident in 1986 that required two operations. During each one, Hall stopped breathing and was considered clinically dead before doctors revived him.

So when Hall says "My life is built around adversity," it is neither false bravado nor macho posturing.

As a team captain, Hall is determined to get the Avengers through their humble beginnings. It's only football, after all. Hall, who has also worked as a police officer in Alabama and a truant officer in Orange County, knows that getting through life is the real challenge.

"There's nothing in my life I can't bounce back from," he said.

Hall was a high school All-American in football, basketball and baseball and was considered one of the nation's top 10 football recruits, even after the horrific auto accident his junior year.

"March 11, 1986," said Hall recalling the events in an even voice. "We were on spring break. I had been home all day and that night one of my friends asked me to go out. My mom said 'You don't need to go out,' but I told her 'Mom, are you trippin'? I've been in the house all day. I'm just going out for a while.' "

He went out with his buddy, then borrowed his friend's 1984 Buick Regal to go visit a girl.

On his way home, Hall, driving alone, fell asleep at the wheel. The car went into a curve and began sliding on gravel when Hall awoke and tried to steer back on the road. Instead, the car went into a ravine and flipped several times.

"I wasn't wearing a seat belt," Hall said. "But if I had, the cops said I would have been crushed."

What happened was nearly as bad.

Tumbling inside the car as it flipped, Hall was lacerated by flying glass from the shattered back window. When the car finally stopped, Hall said he looked at his left arm resting on his chest. On top of his hand was his left ear.

Hall was taken to the hospital, full of glass in his face and chest. The cut from his severed ear, "was so deep you could see my teeth on the other side of my face," he said.

Hall's cuts required almost a thousand stitches on his body. Miraculously, his hearing was not lost, and he was not blinded by the glass fragments in his eyes.

During the surgery to reattach his ear, Hall stopped breathing. He didn't know it at the time. He was undergoing another experience.

"I can remember a white cloud, whiter than anything I'd seen before," Hall said. "There was a figure. I couldn't make out a face, but it looked to be human. The figure spoke in a voice I didn't recognize and said 'It's not your time to go.' "

During a second operation, on his chest, Hall clinically died a second time. He said the same figure gave him a second message: "You have a purpose in life and you have to find out what that purpose is."

Hall says it doesn't matter if people believe him; he is convinced he was not dreaming.

"It was a pleasant place, and I was walking to the figure. I can't recall any features, just a human figure and a voice. Everything around us was white, whiter than clouds on a clear day. Like pure," he said.

Hall was hospitalized from March to June and lost 100 pounds. During his hospital stay he was to receive cortisone shots in the body and face to help rid his skin of scar tissue. But could not handle the needles in the face, and it bears the evidence of his accident.

"It was so painful in the face--you can't numb the face and the needle didn't feel right--I told them I couldn't take it anymore," Hall said. "I had to accept how I look. I messed up."

Hall returned to the football team for his senior season, then went to Auburn, where he was a three-year letterman at tight end. In his final college game, in 1990, he set a Peach Bowl record for tight ends with nine receptions in a victory over Indiana.

"He was a tough, hard-nosed football player," said Pat Dye, former Auburn coach. " "A very competitive guy."

Hall is a symbol of perseverance. He had NFL tryouts with the Minnesota Vikings in 1992 and Indianapolis Colts in 1993, but was cut by both teams. In 1995 he played with Barcelona in the NFL Europe. In one 16-month stretch in 1994-95, he played 36 games with Barcelona and the Orlando Predators.

With the Avengers, Hall's primary offensive responsibility is to block. But he has caught three passes for 48 yards this season, including a 33-yard touchdown pass against Carolina.

On defense, he has made four tackles and has one of the Avengers' three sacks.

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