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Georgia State’s Michael Hall: From borrowed cleats to frontlines of coronavirus

Michael Hall played on Georgia State’s first football team in 2010.
Michael Hall played on Georgia State’s first football team in 2010.

In summer 2009, Michael Hall was trying out for Georgia State’s start-up football team in a pair of cleats that belonged to his cousin.

The borrowed cleats were a size too big, but he was still able to display the speed that would make him a key defender on the Panthers’ first two teams in 2010 and 2011.

A decade later, Hall is using different talents on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19 as an oral and maxillofacial surgery resident at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C.

“Oral and maxillofacial surgery is a dental specialty that splits the difference between general medicine and dentistry,” Hall said. “We are hospital-based and we do a lot of trauma-based surgery, cancer-based surgery, things of that nature, but we also do your common dental treatments like extractions and dental implants.”

But in this unprecedented time, all medical personnel have been enlisted.

“I'm pretty much on the frontlines,” he said. “Nationwide there is a shortage of health care personnel to cope with the battle against this global pandemic, so a lot of us are being rotated and moved to the frontlines to assist our colleagues.

“Right now, I’m spending a majority of my time in the emergency department doing the work of a general physician, seeing and treating patients who come in on a daily basis.”

A first-generation college student, Hall earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise physiology at Georgia State. After completing his doctor of dental medicine at Augusta University, he is in the second year of his four-year residency. He is grateful for the medical training that enables him to help others at this crucial time.

“My dearest hope is that we can help as many people as we can and continue to protect those who are standing on the frontline trying to help out with this cause,” he said.

Michael Hall during an NCAA FCS football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, Friday, September 2, 2011. Georgia State won 41-7. (Abell Images/Paul Abell)
Michael Hall during an NCAA FCS football game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, Friday, September 2, 2011. Georgia State won 41-7. (Abell Images/Paul Abell)

Credit: Paul Abell

Credit: Paul Abell

“It’s been the experience of a lifetime. It’s humbling in a lot of ways because I’ve been fortunate enough to have been trained to have utility in the global crisis that's going on. I'm very grateful for that opportunity.

“It is uncharted territory for someone like myself who is very new to the profession and even for those have experience. You have a shortage of the normal personal protective equipment that is usually readily available, and you have changes in protocol, not only within the hospital, but with things being mandated and recommended by the local and national governments.”

Back to those extra-roomy cleats, borrowed from his cousin, Nick McRae, a football player at Georgia Tech.

“I had stepped away from football to focus on being a first-generation college student,” said Hall, who won a state title at Dublin (Ga.) High in 2006. “My high school football coach, Roger Holmes, contacted me about Georgia State starting a football program and told me to get in touch with the coaching staff.”

That led him to participate in a tryout, conducted in August 2009 at the Panthers’ make-shift practice field adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.

“I hadn’t touched a football in a couple of years, so I knew that I could be rusty, but I was confident in my speed,” Hall said.

His confidence was endorsed by head coach Bill Curry, who said, “You’re going to play linebacker.”

Hall said that Curry was the reason he decided to take on the challenge of playing college football. “Something just felt right about the way coach Curry approached things. I really liked his paternal approach and his ability to interact with people in a meaningful way.”

Not only did Hall earn a spot on the team, but he made the first tackle in Georgia State history, a stop at the 12-yard line on the Panthers' first kickoff in the inaugural game victory over Shorter on Sept. 2, 2010.

“The most memorable part of the first season was that first game,” Hall said. “Just seeing the city and Georgia State University as a whole rally around us to get things started.

“The opportunity to play at the University of Alabama was another memorable moment. We had a chance to be on one of the biggest stages in college football. Despite the way the game turned out, there wasn't anyone who was shy about being there.”

Another serendipitous, albeit painful, moment led Hall to his career path.

He cracked a tooth playing football, and he was so impressed with the care that he received from the team dentist and then the oral surgeon who performed his root canal, that he decided to pursue oral and maxillofacial surgery.

Hall hopes to return to Atlanta to practice medicine.

“Atlanta has a special place in my heart because of the roots I've made in the city,” he said. “I have very close personal ties to not only my fraternity at Georgia State and obviously the football program, but to Georgia State as a whole.

“Georgia State is an institution that took me in as a child and gave me the opportunity and the resources to father myself into the man I always wanted to become. I always want to be near Georgia State, and I always want to stay actively involved in in what Georgia State is producing and where they are heading in the future.”

This story is published with the permission of Georgia State Sports Communicatons.