JOHNSTOWN - Joe Hall compared his running style to that of National Football League Hall of Famer Walter Payton.
"I liked delivering the hit instead of getting hit," Hall said. "When my line opened a hole, I could hit it; if not, I could get outside. I also could run over a player if I had to."
Hall's running ability helped power the Glove Cities Colonials to an Empire Football League championship, while posting a 74-32 record in his career.
Joe Hall Sr.
The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis
It comes as no surprise that Hall's ability earned him the respect of his team as well as his opponents.
Now his standout career will be recognized nationally this week when he is inducted into the American Football Association's Semi-Pro/Minor League Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
"I am real excited," Hall said. "They called me on Mother's Day and surprised me. My wife answered the phone and said to me, 'Rick's [Rick Sager] on the phone.'"
"I go, 'Rick who? What's he want?' I picked up the phone, and he goes, 'Joe, you're in.' I asked 'In what?' Rick said, 'The Hall of Fame.' My heart dropped. I couldn't believe it. I said, 'Stop messing with me.' He said. 'You're in the Hall of Fame.' I believe I started crying on the phone. I was so excited. What an honor."
Sager and AFA Hall of Famers Dave Fleck and Tom Manny were the driving forces and sponsors for Hall's nomination.
"The whole process started over a year ago, when a player from the Albany Metro Mallers, Mike Galleo, was nominated," Sager said. "We were talking about who else from this area was deserving to get in. The first words out of Coach Fleck were 'Joe Hall. He was the toughest running back I ever had to go up against.' That put the wheels in motion."
Sager recruited Hall's uncle to help put a portfolio together for the committee.
"I called Joe's uncle Stan and explained to him what we wanted to do," Sager said. "He went up to the library and put together what turned out to be 50 pages of newspaper articles and pictures from Joe's career. The story was they were putting together a scrapbook of Joe's career to give to him as a Christmas present. We got that forwarded to the board of directors of the AFA, and lo and behold, Mother's Day morning when I checked my e-mail, there was the announcement from the AFA that our nominee made the cut unanimously and would be in the class of 2014."
Hall remembered getting the scrapbook for Christmas.
"They gave it to me on Christmas and I thought it was really nice," he said. "I did not have a clue that I was nominated or would get inducted into the hall of fame. I have to give it to them, they kept it all a secret."
Hall will be joined by players Burt Skeel (Mayfield Heights, Ohio); Eugene Larsen (Schiller Park, Ill.); Larry Salley (Gainesville, Va.); Darrell McCatty (Chesterfield, Va.); Steve Bailey (Feura Bush); Mike Myers (Albany); Pat Killorin (Baldwinsville,); David Powell (Rising Fawn, Ga.); Doug Coleman (White Castle, La.); Bryan Smith (Hollister, Calif.); Jose Rodriguez (Hollister, Calif.); Byron Allen (Lafayette, La.) and John Burns (Gurnee, Ill.).
Hall played high school ball at Gloversville High School before attending Hiram Scott College for a year then serving two years in the Marine Corp.
He said the Colonials were a part of his life for a long time.
"We watched the Colonials play as kids," he said. "We would come out here [Knox Field] and watch Art Recesso, Dick Ruberti and those guys play. So when you got out of school you had that time to play before going anyplace anyway. So I came out and got to play for coach Benton and he had me starting my first year out here. I played in 1970 when we went up to Watertown and lost the [26 game win] streak up there. Then I went in the Marines and came back to play in 1973."
Hall could not pin down one game or play that was a highlight for him in his career.
"There were so many moments against so many rivals that we had that I can't really remember one that really stands out. But It was always great playing the Mallers and the Greenjackets from Hudson Falls," he said. "I know one game that was a bummer for us that really stood out. In 1974 we were undefeated but lost in the opening round of the playoffs to Hudson Falls, 20-19. That was our only loss that year."
After wrapping up his playing career, Hall tried his hand at coaching, spending eight years with the Amsterdam Zephyrs as an assistant and head coach.
It allowed him to see how things have changed from his playing days.
"We couldn't get guys to practice," he said. "We'd get eight, 12 guys at practice. When we played, we'd play Saturday night, go out after the game, and coach [Don] Benton would have us practice on a Sunday, and we would be there. We might have been hurting, but we were there.
"Another difference was the closeness, the camaraderie. When we played, we did everything together. Now, its more about, 'I've got to get stats.' When I played, I wasn't thinking about how many yards I was going to get or how many touchdowns I was going to get. All I cared about was playing with those guys, and winning the game. That's what was great about it."
Hall said his acceptance speech in Canton, "is going to be from the heart. It's such an honor for me, and I'm just thankful."
Friday's induction ceremony can be viewed in a live webcast at www.americanfootballassn.com