Hall, from Valley, helped coach Clemson to national championship
VALLEY — There‘s been one common theme in Valley native Lemanski Hall’s time as a coach and athlete.
“Lemanski’s a winner,” Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney said. “He’s always been a winner. That’s one of the reasons why I hired him.”
This past season, Hall served as the defensive ends coach on Clemson’s national championship football team, which defeated Alabama 44-16 earlier this week in the College Football Playoff National Championship game. Hall also served as a defensive analyst for Clemson during the 2016 season when the program won the national championship.
“It’s still surreal,” Hall said. “Not a lot of people can say that they’ve gone to college, win a national championship as a player, and then have the opportunity to come back and win as a coach. Each one of them is different. As a player, you have an impact on the game, you’re involved in the game and can contribute more. As a coach, you are involved, but you’re not out there tackling, you’re not out there throwing touchdown passes, but I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to win as a player and as a coach.”
Hall and Swinney developed a friendship at the University of Alabama in 1989. Hall was a redshirt freshman on the football team, while Swinney was a walk-on. The two have stayed in contact ever since.
“He was a big part of us going 15-0,” Swinney said. “He also did a great job of helping us with our special teams and recruiting. I’m thankful to have him as a valuable member to us.”
Hall’s history with winning started well before this week.
“Lemanski and I competed when we were little kids in basketball,” said Marcus Pollard, Valley High School alum and retired NFL tight end. “I remember him being so athletic, so good and playing so hard even at a young age. It inspired and motivated me because he was a little bit older, to do the same thing. Even as a youngster, seven, eight, nine-years-old, you saw that competitiveness and desire to be great, even at an early age. To see what he’s achieved at this point in his life, it’s no surprise to me because of what I saw at eight, nine-years-old.”
Hall became one of the more accomplished players in Valley High history. After his senior season in 1988, the defensive back was named to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, as well as making first-team All-State, the All-Southern and Super 12 teams.
“He was super aggressive,” said Pollard, who now works as the Jacksonville Jaguars Director of Player Development and Youth Football. “Everything he did, lifting weights, running, he competed at everything. I was always like, ‘I don’t want to go against Lemanski because he’s going to go too hard.’ He only knew one speed. He was going 100 miles an hour, and that’s it. You either get on board, or you get left behind. To me, having him being a little older and lay that path of how intense, tough and competitive you have to be to play football — he set a really good example for me.”
Hall and Valley teammate John Copeland then went on to play college football at the University of Alabama. The Valley duo started on Alabama’s national championship team in 1992, a season that saw Hall lead the team with 70 tackles.
Hall then enjoyed a nine-year career in the NFL with the Houston/Tennessee Oilers, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. Before joining the Clemson program in 2015, he coached at The Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee, where he won four state championships in five years.
Since climbing the ranks of coaching, Hall said that he’s rarely had the opportunity to stop by his hometown of Valley.
However, Clemson has recently made him the program’s recruiter from the Greater Valley Area to Mobile.
“I get to go down to home more now than ever before,” Hall said. “I’m excited about that. I love my hometown. I’ve had tremendous growth. I’ve learned a lot, and have been able to do some great things. I’ve gotten a lot of support from the Valley and surrounding areas. When I get a chance to come home, I don’t get to see everyone, but when I am there, I get to see mom and my family. It’s always great to do that.”
Clemson’s most recent title will likely be talked about for years to come, considering who the Tigers had to go through and how they did it.
Nick Saban and Alabama had dominated college football for the greater part of the last decade.
In the national championship, the Tigers forced Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa to throw two interceptions, sacked him once and held him to the second-lowest quarterback rating he had all season. With the win, Clemson became the first team in college football history to go 15-0.
“When you play a team like Alabama, they’re going to bring the best out of you,” Hall said. “Our guys were battle-tested. We’ve played Alabama before, so this wasn’t our first time seeing them. I think a lot of teams who go against Alabama are already defeated before they even step on the field. That wasn’t our team. We’re a great team. We have great players. Alabama has great players. We were able to match up well with them, and we got the ball to our playmakers.”
At this moment, Hall said that he believes the 2018 Clemson Tigers are the greatest team in college football history. While he said his perspective might be affected by the timing of the win of the moment, the Tigers have put up a valid argument.