Andre Hal was a seventh round pick for the Houston Texans in Bill O'Brien's first draft with the team, back in 2014. Drafted as a cornerback, Hal eventually made the move over to starting safety in 2015, and was ultimately rewarded with a second contract — three years, $15 million, $7 million guaranteed — prior to the 2017 season, a deal that will kick in this coming season in 2018.
I say all of that to say that, by any football measurement, Andre Hal, a former SEVENTH round pick starting in the NFL, is a success story. Add to this the fact that he has a degree from Vanderbilt, and is one of the most well-liked and socially conscious Houston Texans, and yeah... Andre Hal is as solid a person as it gets.
Unfortunately, all that does is make it even more confusing, sad, and infuriating when you get the news, as we all did on Friday, that Andre Hal has been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma:
Obviously, there is a lot to unpack here, and we will do that in just a second. Just for clarity's sake, this form of lymphoma is different than the one that Hal's teammate David Quessenberry conquered over the last few years. Quessenberry had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The good news is that the survival rate of Hodgkins lymphoma, depending on age, is very, very high, like over 90 percent.
Reaction came swiftly on Friday, first from the McNair family:
Statement from The McNair Family: pic.twitter.com/QxHicXvmsO— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) June 8, 2018
And from Texans head coach Bill O'Brien, who released a statement....
Statement from Houston Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien: pic.twitter.com/gqZYXzWqJi— Houston Texans (@HoustonTexans) June 8, 2018
....and also appeared on my radio show on Friday on SportsRadio 610 and said the following about Hal:
"It's always tough, when you have a guy that's played so much football for you, and really epitomizes what our culture is all about. He started all 16 games for us last year, and he's a leader. He's a guy in the locker room everybody looks to, so when you get news like that it's tough. On the positive side, Andre is a special guy, and he's really gonna fight it. He's got a great family, he's gonna beat it, and it's just a matter of time before he beats it and gets back onto the field."
I think for much of Houston and for the team, J.J. Watt is kind of the unofficial spokesperson in these situations, and he sent along his well wishes.....
Finally, Mark Berman of FOX 26 caught up with Quessenberry, who had this to say:
ICYMI David Quessenberry (@DavidQberry) on Andre Hall (@Drehal29) "He told the entire team of his diagnosis.He was really strong. It's scary. It can b overwhelming.If there's anything he needs we'll b there for him.He's going to beat this.He's going to be back w/ us playing ball" pic.twitter.com/fnElKcEdXZ— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) June 9, 2018
Now, here are the different facets to this story, starting with the most important:
1. It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that the most important thing is Hal's recovery and survival, obviously above and beyond football.
There's not a person out there who isn't rooting for Andre Hal, and while news like this is devastating, there are silver linings for Hal. First, he resides in the city that is largely regarded as the mecca in cancer treatment. M.D. Anderson is down the street from his place of work. That's a great thing. Also, he has the empathy and experience of a team and, frankly, an owner who have been through similar battles. There is no shortage of people to lean on. Finally, as a professional athlete, he has the best doctors on speed dial in case any questions come up or anything goes sideways. In short, if you're going to be diagnosed with cancer, perhaps there's no better job to have than Houston Texans football player.
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2. Andre Hal got his money, and I'm so happy for him.
As I mentioned above, Hal was one of a handful of 2014 draft choices (Jay Prosch and the retired C.J. Fiedorowicz were the other two) to get contract extensions last offseason. Hal's even getting to a second contract, as a former seventh round pick, makes him a huge success story. Virtually everybody close to Hal expects him to beat this and get back on the football field, but if for some reason, he doesn't, he at least has the fiscal comfort of $7 million in guaranteed money, not to mention a degree from Vanderbilt, on which to fall back. That's fortunate.
3. Those moves in the secondary this offseason just became much more important.
So now for the football part of this — the Texans went into the 2018 offseason with the secondary as one of the thinnest parts of their depth chart. Basically, the headliners were downtrodden Kevin Johnson, aging Kareem Jackson, and Hal. Since then, they've signed Aaron Colvin, re-signed Johnathan Joseph, signed Tyrann Mathieu, and drafted Justin Reid. This is a secondary that can withstand a hit or two to its depth. Again, the depth of the secondary is a pimple on this story as compared to Hal's recovery, but at some point, the football part must be noted, and I will be that person to note it as such.
I'll say it again — we are all rooting for you, Andre Hal.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.