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Old 10-05-2006, 07:38 AM   Topic Starter
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Dante Hall takes mom's advice and gets his 11th TD return

Dante Hall takes mom's advice and gets his 11th TD return

By DOUG TUCKER

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The woman whose nickname is lovingly tattooed onto Dante Hall's left arm had been urging patience.

And like just about everything else "Lady C" ever suggested, it worked.

With a fake left, a feint right and a quick burst up the middle, Kansas City's return specialist took a punt back 60 yards for a touchdown against San Francisco last week. It was the 11th scoring return of his career, but his first since 2004, and it broke what had seemed like a long dry spell for the two-time Pro Bowler.

Even though he's only a couple of weeks past his 28th birthday, there were whispers that Hall had lost a step. Some said the waterbug-like elusiveness that made the little Texan the top returner in the NFL from 2002-2004 had ebbed.

But not Carolyn Hall Lady C to her family and close friends. She figured it was simply a matter of his needing to adjust to the adjustments his opponents had made.

"The problem was, I'd been trying to hit a home run every time. I wanted to take back every kick for a touchdown instead of just getting the best field position for the team that I could get," he said.

Defenses had to do something. In his greatest year, 2003, Hall touched the ball 142 times for a team-record 2,446 combined net yards with five touchdowns on returns, receptions and rushes.

In 2004, the 5-8, 180-pounder had 68 kickoff returns for a career-high 1,718 yards, with two touchdowns.

Almost every week, he was leaving coverage teams strewn in his wake. So most of them began fanning out, playing what's known as a "soft coverage."

"They kind of cushion against me instead of just coming down beaming," Hall said. "When they come down beaming, you make one or two guys miss, and that's when you get the home run.

"And that's what I was trying to do against the fanned-out defense instead of taking the 12- or 15-yard gain."

It was almost as though the defense was willing to concede a few yards rather than take a chance on him jetting past them.

"It's nice when you've got a weapon that'll make people decide to take a 15-or 20-yard return and call that a win," said Kendall Gammon, the Chiefs' veteran long snapper. "He is a gifted human being."

Now, taking Lady C's advice, Hall is no longer bent on reaching the end zone every time his opponent kicks the ball.

"They were going to let me have the single, maybe the double," he said. "But not the home run. And I was trying to get the home run instead of the double that was right there in front of my face.

"When you're trying to hit the home run, they say, 'OK, we'll give you the 15 yards. We're going to filter out. We're going to fan out. We're not going to just swarm to the ball and come and corral you."'

With one more kickoff return, Hall will break the NFL record of six he now shares with Ollie Matson, Gale Sayers, Travis Williams and Mel Gray. Altogether, he needs two more kick returns to tie Brian Mitchell's NFL record of 13.

"It's only a matter of time," Gammon predicted. "He'll get it."

If he does, nobody will be more thrilled than Lady C.

A pastel-colored greeting card she mailed a few weeks ago sits in his locker. He reached in and retrieved it.

The message on the card reads, "Be patient. Like a great piece of art, good things take time. Then you will be ready when opportunity calls."

Hall carefully returned the card to its place of honor, standing upright in the top of his locker, alongside a picture of his son.

"When opportunity calls," he said with a smile, "I will be ready."
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