Washington Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall is driven by a family tragedy

Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall strikes a familiar pose after his fourth interception in a 17-14 victory over the Chicago Bears last month.
Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall strikes a familiar pose after his fourth interception in a 17-14 victory over the Chicago Bears last month. (Jonathan Newton/the Washington Post)
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 27, 2010; 11:20 PM

Just more than a month ago, the Chicago Bears trailed the Washington Redskins by three points with less than three minutes remaining at sunny Soldier Field. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back in his own territory and looked downfield for receiver Johnny Knox. There, as he had been all day, was cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

To that point, Hall had three interceptions, and his fourth may have been the easiest, a jump ball thrown right to him. Having tied an NFL record for most picks in a game, Hall fell to the ground, then propped himself up and knelt on both knees at the 15-yard line. He held the ball in his right hand and spread his arms, looking skyward, the focus of a packed stadium.

"It's just become, I guess, a trademark," Hall said. "But people don't really know what it's for."

Hall hasn't ever really thought to explain why he marks such plays with that gesture. He knows well that it leaves him open for criticism. The kneeling, the pose - he seems to be pointing the spotlight directly between the numbers on his jersey, soaking in the glory. He was, after all, called "MeAngelo" during his early NFL days in Atlanta. He must be selfish, self-absorbed; people think his attitude got him shipped away from the Falcons after four years, got him cut from Oakland in the middle of the 2008 season.

"I don't really care," Hall said. "I'm misinterpreted lots of times. At the end of the day, it's a game."

Even his critics know Hall can change a game. Statistically, at least, he is having the best of his seven occasionally turbulent seasons in the league. Heading into Sunday's game against Minnesota, he has six interceptions - which already matches a career high - and has returned

one of them for a touchdown. By defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's estimate, he could have four more. The fumble he returned for a touchdown in the season opener against Dallas was the difference between the Redskins winning and losing, and his four-pick day at Chicago provided another victory.

"There's some things that he could do that he doesn't feel comfortable doing," Haslett said. "But I think he could do almost anything he wants."

What he wanted to do, after that fourth pick against the Bears, was exactly what he had done after the first three: Find his mother in the stands and hand her the ball. It made for a nice narrative that day, because Joan Hall had traveled to the game - as she has for each of DeAngelo's games as a pro - with three family friends, and by game's end, each of them had a football.

The exchange between mother and son was captured on film. Their story, though, couldn't be.

"Everybody's been through something," Hall said.

But not everybody knows what Hall has been through, why a flashy cornerback with a reputation for seeking attention falls to his knees and looks to the sky.

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