Versatile back faces tall task

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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Chad Hall hopes he made a big impression on the Falcons coaches -- and that they have a long memory.

Hall was one of a handful of players participating in Atlanta's three-day minicamp on a tryout basis, but his career options differ from other NFL hopefuls.

While some undrafted prospects land in the Arena Football League or seek jobs outside football, Hall could be bound for a war zone with classmates from the Air Force Academy.

He must serve at least two years before he has a chance to be granted permission by the Air Force to pursue an NFL career, according to Capt. Tom Wenz, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon.

Hall wasn't drafted and wasn't even signed as a nondrafted free agent, so his final day with the team may have been the end of the minicamp Monday.

"Either way, whether I make the team or not, I want to serve," Hall said. "I went to the Air Force wanting to serve my country, so that's not a bad thing. I want to do it either way."

Hall's credentials are impressive. He was the only player in the nation last season to lead his team in rushing and receiving. He also ranked third in the nation in all-purpose yards.

But there's this: The Falcons list Hall at only 5-foot-7 and 179 pounds. That is tiny, even for a team that watched Warrick Dunn, who passed 10,000 career yards rushing last season, prove that a small running back can succeed in the league.

The three-sport star from Norcross, Ga., says he's been encouraged by the success of Wes Welker (5-9, 185) as well.

"He has unique skills," Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said. "You think back to the New York Giants when they had Dave Meggett, who was a third-down guy and a returner."

Hall and the other players in camp on a tryout basis -- including Georgia receiver A.J. Bryant and Georgia Tech safety Jamal Lewis -- will learn this week whether they will be invited back.

Hall graduates on May 28. He then has 60 days of leave and could continue off-season work with the Falcons during that time before reporting back to the Air Force for training.

Hall quickly won support on the team.

"He's great," said fullback Ovie Mughelli. "He's a breath of fresh air. Guys like that tend to work a little bit harder, try to do a little bit more because they know that people are already counting them out."

Hall's best shot with the Falcons will be as a return specialist.

"It's one of the spots they haven't filled yet, so I knew it would be a good opportunity to make the team," Hall said.

FALCONS' DATES


MAY 19-21: NFL Spring Meeting, Buckhead, Ga.


JUNE 23-25: Voluntary mini-camp in Flowery Branch, Ga.


JUNE 29-JULY 2: NFL Rookie Symposium, Carlsbad, Calif.


LATE JULY: Training camp in Flowery Branch, Ga.


Aug. 9: Preseason opener, at Jacksonville Jaguars


SEPT. 7: Regular season opener, vs. Detroit Lions


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