On Saturday morning, Emanuel Hall made the 30 minute drive from his Franklin, Tenn., home to Tootsie’s bar on Broadway in Nashville, to make an appearance on the NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.
He was introduced as one of the best remaining players in the NFL Draft, as it entered its final day, with respected opinions such as that of former NFL wideout and co-host Nate Burleson, who thought Hall would be a steal for a team in the fifth round, let alone the seventh.
Television appearances turned out to be the least of Hall’s problems on Saturday. Considered a second- or third-round pick by many, Hall had a free fall that made former teammate Drew Lock’s long wait look relatively minor.
While Lock fell out of the top 10 to the Denver Broncos at pick No. 42, Hall went undrafted. Hall later signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago Bears.
“I think something happened in between (Friday and Saturday) that changed a lot of teams’ minds,” Hall said outside his home. “I’ve dealt with a ton. This is a part of it all. One thing I do know is, I know what type of player I am. If I wasn’t motivated before, you best believe I’m motivated now.
“This is a chip I’ll keep forever,” he added. “This is a feeling I hope a lot of guys don’t get.”
Hall first sensed trouble on Friday when his hometown Tennessee Titans drafted Mississippi wide receiver A.J. Brown, who led the Southeastern Conference in receiving yards, with the No. 51 pick. A Titans fan growing up, Hall was unable to work out for his hometown team before the draft because of a case of strep throat. Brown’s selection marked the first of 11 wideouts who were taken on the draft’s second day.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers took Toledo wideout Diontae Johnson in the third round, Hall shook his head.
“I’m a little pissed and that’s how it should be,” he said. “If you’re not pissed, you’re not a competitor, and you don’t want to play.”
Hall missed a large portion of MU’s season due to a lingering groin injury and the sudden death of his father, and his absence showed in the Tigers’ games without him. Lock didn’t have a reliable downfield target, and opposing defenses didn’t have to focus on one particular player.
Had Hall played the entire season, he figures he would have been a first-round pick and had over 1,600 yards receiving as a senior. Despite the groin injury lingering into the NFL Combine in late February, Hall still set the broad jump record for his position at 11 feet, 9 inches and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds.
“My junior year I got 800 yards in essentially five or six games,” Hall said. “There’s a lot of time and effort that went into that. I could’ve redshirted last year. The games I missed, we lost. The games I played, we won. I’m not saying I’m the whole team, but I’m a very big part of that team.”
On Thursday, Mizzou coach Barry Odom said he expected a team to fall in love with Hall, given Hall’s speed and ability to take the top off a defense.
“He’s one of the fastest guys I’ve ever seen from the line of scrimmage to the next 15 to 20 yards,” Odom said. “I’ve never seen anyone faster than him.”
After not hearing his name in the second or third rounds, Hall went into Saturday optimistic that he’d be an early fourth round pick and the first wideout taken that day. Instead, Arizona Cardinals made Iowa State star receiver Hakeem Butler with the first pick of the day, and Hall’s free fall continued. Hall started Saturday on his couch but moved to the back of the kitchen after the Seahawks took West Virginia wideout Gary Jennings and Georgia’s Riley Ridley in the middle of the round. By the end of the fourth round, Hall had moved upstairs to watch the final three rounds in private.
As ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper occasionally mentioned Hall as an attractive prospect still on the board, his living room full of relatives sat quietly. Prosper, his 18-month-old cousin, was the lone source of noise. The baby boy was playing with a balloon.
In the middle of the seventh round, after MU’s Terry Beckner went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Hall had all but decided that he was going to go the free agent route.
“I work best under pressure,” Hall said. “I’m going to go to camp, I’m going to have to show out. I still consider myself one of the best products in this draft. There’s a lot of guys that get drafted late, and they play for 10, 12 years. I want to prove every single team wrong. Even the one that gets me. Because they didn’t get me.”
Hall said the reaction among his friends and family upstairs in his home was utter shock, more than anger or sympathy. After going through the injury and the passing of his father, he’d dealt with enough sympathy and was convinced it doesn’t help.
After what he’s been through the last few months, Hall said he figured the past few days would provide some needed good news after a rough stretch for him and his family.
Instead, he was met with another obstacle.
“I’m planning to play, not just make a roster,” Hall said. “At the end of the day, someone is going to believe in me.”