Hall of a town to hail from

IAN BUSBY

, Last Updated: 7:46 AM ET

Getting to Canton is the reward for outstanding American football careers, but Antonio Hall already has a permanent home there.

After growing up near the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Calgary Stampeders offensive lineman had no choice but to pursue the game.

It didn't matter if he showed skill in other sports, football is to Canton what hockey is to Canada.

"I was always a bigger kid," said the 6-ft.-4, 305-lb. guard. "I started out with baseball, but everyone told me I should play football. That's what happened.

"I thought I was a better basketball player until my senior year of high school. It wound up working out better for me."

Hall is entering his third season in the CFL and trying to crack the Stamps lineup as an import lineman.

The 26-year-old toiled on the practice roster with the Saskatchewan Roughriders the past few seasons.

Although his pro career isn't quite shrine-worthy yet, Hall did have an outstanding career in college, when he was a four-year starter at the University of Kentucky. He was a first-team All-SEC selection in his junior and senior years.

Being his allegiance is now to the Wildcats, Hall tries not to talk ball when he's at home in the Buckeye State.

"It's especially prevalent when Ohio State is playing because it's just assumed everyone is an Ohio State fan," Hall said. "If you're good enough, you go to Ohio State.

"Very rarely do you see guys leave the state to go to college."

When Hall was younger, his mother actually worked at the Hall of Fame in Canton, helping to conduct tours and organizing bookings.

Every year, they stage an NFL exhibition game during induction weekend.

It was there Hall got to see such greats as Lynn Swann and Anthony Munoz get inducted, give tearful speeches and thank their families, teammates, etc.

As a youngster, just getting a glimpse of these players, even years after they retired, was a special moment.

"It was amazing growing up and seeing Hall-of-Famers come to your city every year, going to the Hall-of-Fame game, being in the locker-room with some of the teams," Hall said. "When that's something you are trying to aspire to be, to have it right in your face is good. It's nice to have the goal in front of you.

"Growing up, it's good to see the Hall of Fame because the best of the best are there. Going to two-a-days at McKinley (High School), you have to pass it.

"You always think you can be part of something great. It's always in your face -- get back to Canton, get back to Canton."

Hall now makes his home in Lexington, Ky., but he makes it back to Ohio to visit family every off-season.

He's made about 15 visits to the Hall, but he never gets sick of the tourists who constantly flood the city.

"It's really cool to have guys come from all over the world just for football," Hall said.

"You appreciate it more after you leave Canton because you don't realize how big a deal it is to be from Canton."


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