THEN AND NOW:
Published 12:00 am Monday, July 7, 2003
Ole Miss’ first All-American living the quiet life
He’s always worn the ring.
It’s a strange bit of showmanship for someone who seemed to want nothing more than to be forgotten, to go about his new life quietly.
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The ring is gold, with a football on the top of it and a diamond inlaid into that.
Parker Hall received it for earning Most Valuable Player honors from the NFL in 1939.
He completed 106 passes that year, the first person to complete more than 100 in a season.
He was dubbed with the nickname “Bullet” for the velocity with which he threw the ball.
“I could throw the ball real good,” Hall said.
That rookie season would be his best in the league. He threw for 1,227 yards and nine touchdowns, rushed for 458 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 40.8 yards as the Rams’ punter.
Pretty good for a guy who wasn’t even sure he’d make the team.
Did he think he’d win the MVP?
“Oh, hell no,” Hall said. “I was just lucky to make the squad.”
Hall played with the Rams three more years, throwing for around 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns each season, as well as doing most of the kick and punt returning for Cleveland.
A jack of all trades, he also played defensive back.
The press couldn’t get enough of Hall, even covering a social event featuring him and Indians’ pitcher Bob Feller.
Hall would be compared to the other innovators in the passing game, such as Sammy Baugh, Don Hutson and Davy O’Brien, the 1938 Heisman Trophy winner.
“I think I was as good as any of them,” Hall said. “The statistics showed it, and the sportswriters said it.”
Hall left the NFL in 1942, joining the Navy. Many professional athletes of the time enlisted.
The service took him to Pebble Beach, Calif., where he played service football.
The different branches of military had teams, many with former pros filling the roster. Hall played for Del Monte Preflight.
His time to join the fighting never came, and Hall was eventually decommissioned.
The newly formed San Francisco 49ers drafted Hall, and he joined them in 1946.
Hall threw the first touchdown pass in the team’s history, but didn’t enjoy the success he had had with Cleveland or at Ole Miss.
“The competition was greater after the war with all the boys back,” Hall said.
A few years earlier he married Josephine Tully from Memphis, who he had met in Tunica.
By the time Hall was with the 49ers, he and Josephine had their first child, Parker Jr., and the two began considering moving away from the West Coast.
The family did that, leaving not only the Pacific but also football, and moved to Memphis, where Hall began working for the Anderson-Tully Company as a salesman.
Hall, then 30 years old, thought he could’ve played a few more years in the league.
“I wanted to go to work and make some damn money,” Hall said. “I couldn’t fool with football much more.
“It wasn’t hard to quit.”
Hall’s retirement, the second one, finds him at his house most of the time, there or at the Y.
The house is spacious, with a beautiful yard and only a couple of stones’ throws off the Mississippi River.
It’s the type of house one might imagine a retired professional football star would have.
Yet football had absolutely nothing to do with the house. No, Hall has no dependence on the sport he left so long ago. His current life funds itself, rather than relying on the money of his NFL years.
He never even made more than $6,000 a year playing football.
“You’re pretty glad to get that,” Hall said. “They tell you, If you don’t like that you can go home and make $100 a month.'”
Hall’s life since football has been one of comfort. He lived well enough in Memphis before moving to Vicksburg and his current home.
He always provided plenty for his family, and allowed his sons to choose their own paths.
Most dabbled in sports golf, tennis and others.
But not football.
When Dottley went through Ole Miss he first began to hear about Parker Hall.
The football players would see films of the school’s stars, and Hall was one of the best.
“From the people I’ve talked to,” Dottley said, “he was a tremendous athlete. He was a great, great player.”
Typical of such a star player, people tried to hound Hall, but he always tried to dodge the attention.
Tully Hall said his father took the family to one game, but usually had nothing to do with football.
“Back then he was very, very shy about it,” he said. “He’s just a very humble person.”
Over the years Dottley and others would try to involve Hall with Ole Miss alumni activities, but he consistently turned them down.
In 1970, Hall accepted the first recognition since he left football, when he was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
He still shied away from the spotlight whenever possible.
“I wish he were more into being an icon,” Dottley said, “because he is.”
Twenty-eight years later Hall was recognized during halftime of the Ole Miss spring game.
Tully said his father began to regain an interest in sports after watching his grandchildren compete in high school. He’s even attended a dinner although his sons almost had to force him to go.
Hall’s even opened up enough to spend a few hours telling a reporter some of his old football stories.
And out of all the stories from working at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York for a little extra money to the honor of winning the MVP the best one may have been a simple recount of how good the Bears were in the late 1930s and early ’40s.
Hall never did manage to beat the Bears in eight tries while with the Rams.
“They were tough,” Hall said. “We never beat ’em a game.
“They were just good all the way around tough, big.”
And even though he’ll talk about football, Parker Hall still won’t hardly mention his own extraordinary accomplishments.