Ahmard Hall has lasted longer with the Tennessee Titans than any other fullback in recent history, including Lorenzo Neal, because he can do things others could not — or things coaches believed they could not do.
As he attempts to make his career last as long as possible, though, Hall seeks the advice of anyone he can, particularly Neal.
“I don’t know him too well, but when I see him, I greet him and he greets me, and I’m always asking him questions on how to continue to get better at the game and survive for a long time,” Hall said.
Hall, a former U.S. Marine, is in his fifth training camp with the Titans. He has played every game the last two seasons and done a lot of what any fullback must do: He has blocked. His efforts have helped pave the way for three different running backs — Chris Johnson, LenDale White and Travis Henry — to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
The last time the franchise had the same starting fullback in four straight seasons was 1983-86, when Larry Moriarty did it. If Hall makes it through this entire season, he will surpass the stretch of four-plus seasons of Tim Wilson, who took over for Rob Carpenter during the 1977 season and held the job through 1981.
“I’m always picking the brains of different guys like Lorenzo Neal to see how he played 16 years in the league and, in my opinion, was one of the best to ever do it,” Hall said. “You have to just understand that you’re not there yet and always be seeking knowledge of how to survive in this game.
“Take care of your body. Eat right. Never take a day off from the gym, because as a fullback you have to have your neck right and your back and your shoulders. Your body is your tool.”
Like a Swiss Army knife, Hall is a multifaceted tool.
For example, he has caught 49 passes (at least nine every season) and has established himself as a viable receiving option when he is on the field.
That creates a problem for opposing defenses that cannot necessarily assume when he’s on the field that the Titans plan to run the ball. Such was the case when Neal had the job in 1999 and 2000. When he left Tennessee, Neal averaged nearly 20 catches per year over the next six seasons with Cincinnati and San Diego.
“I think Ahmard has good hands and a good feel, and there’s some things where I’m much more patient with Ahmard than I was with Lo when I first came, but that was circumstances,” offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger said. “I was learning the offense and finding out what we could do, and Lo was learning how to be a pass catcher. I think when he went away he became a good pass catcher.”
Hall, on the other hand, arrived in 2006 with soft hands and has worked to develop them ever since.
“I work on that all the time,” he said. “I’m out there before practice catching balls and I catch [off the] Juggs [machine] every other day. You always have to continue to work on your craft.”
In fact, his career reception total is nearly three times the number of carries he has had (17) in his career.
“I knew he had good hands and I like the way he plays,” Heimerdinger said. “I just like the way Ahmard plays and approaches the game. He’s a good pro. He does give us a chance to do some things that maybe I couldn’t do with other fullbacks.”
He’s also done those things a lot longer than most others.