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'I Wake Up Every Day With A Smile On My Face. It's A Blessing'

Seahawks rookie Derick Hall celebrates his own story of overcoming odds while uplifting others with My Cause My Cleats shoes representing the Derick Hall One Percent Foundation.

Derick Hall is supporting Derick Hall 1% Foundation for 2023 My Cause My Cleats during Week 13 vs. the Cowboys.
Derick Hall is supporting Derick Hall 1% Foundation for 2023 My Cause My Cleats during Week 13 vs. the Cowboys.

Derick Hall began playing football as a young child in part so he could just take part in regular childhood activity, but also because doctors wanted him to do something to strengthen his still developing lungs.

Born at 23 ½ weeks weighing just 2 pounds, 9 ounces—his weight would then dip to 1 pound, 13 ounces—Hall's childhood was far from normal, but in football he found a reprieve, even if he had to deal with limitations. 

"Around the age of five, that's when I really can remember going out practicing, playing," Hall said. "Everybody had an inhaler—my mom, the coach, the referee, literally everybody had an inhaler, it was just, whoever was closest to me would give it to me if I needed it. I'd go out for five plays, then I'd have to sit out for 20 minutes, because my body couldn't keep up. I'd see all the other kids running around, being able to run around all day, and I was like, 'I wish.' So that was the first instances where I was like, 'Dang, this is what I'm going to have to deal with growing up.'

Yet even if he couldn't always keep up with the other kids, Hall fell in love with football because it was the rare chance to feel like he was just one of the other kids after a childhood full of restrictions and doctor's appointments.

"It was just having some normal aspect of my life," Hall said. "I wasn't able to do what a normal child does, and at that point I wasn't able to do a lot of what normal kids did—I wasn't able to hang out with a lot of kids because my immune system was weak. I was really sheltered; my mom did everything she could to take care of me and make sure that, in every way, shape and form possible, I was healthy and given the opportunity to be successful. That was the biggest thing, it gave me a piece of normalcy in my life that I was able to do something other kids do."

Hall of course, would eventually go on to thrive on the football field, going on to star at Gulfport High School in Mississippi and Auburn University before being selected in the second round of this year's draft by the Seahawks. And when the outside linebacker takes the field in Dallas on Thursday, he'll take part in the league's My Cause My Cleats initiative wearing shoes representing the Derick Hall One Percent Foundation, which focuses on supporting premature babies and their families, combating food insecurity and addressing childhood obesity in underserved communities.

Hall's foundation takes its name both from the long odds any athlete faces when it comes to making it to the NFL, and also the chances his mother, Stacy Gooden-Crandle, was told her premature baby had of surviving.

"It was a scary, scary time," Gooden-Cradle said when visiting Seahawks rookie minicamp in May. "He was born at 23 ½ weeks, and it was a scary, scary time. Me being a 26-year-old, single mother, I didn't know what to expect, what to think, and the doctors were saying that, if he lived through the night, he'd be a vegetable. He had a grade-three brain bleed, he had to be resuscitated—he didn't have a heartbeat—he was on life support. There were so many what ifs. So it was a scary time. It really was."

Yet despite the long odds, Gooden-Crandle fought for her son at every step, refusing to accept the bleak diagnosis.

"She sacrificed a lot of things for me to get to where I am today," Hall said. "I'll be forever grateful for her for the things she did in my young childhood all the way up to where I am today. They said it was either her or me from the jump, before she even had me, and she said if she had to pick, it was me. God gave her an opportunity to still live, then it came down to make the decision of, 'Your child is never going do anything, he's got a one percent chance to live, he's never going to walk, never going to talk, he'll just be a vegetable.' She just said, 'OK, if that's what I have to deal with, that's something I'll deal with.' It's a blessing to be able to sit here in front of you today, obviously God saw fit for other things. She's a very, very strong woman. She had to go through a lot."

It took Hall five months to leave the hospital, and several years before he could begin having anything resembling a normal childhood, but when he found his way onto a football field, the game grabbed ahold of him, even if his mother was initially hesitant to let him play.

"It was scary," Gooden-Crandle said. "He had a lot of energy and was always bigger than other kids, so he wanted to play football. I went to my husband and said, 'He wants to play football.' And he said, 'Let him play.' I'm thinking about this young kid getting CT scans, and what if someone hits him in the head. So we let him play flag football the first couple of years."

As Hall got older and it came time to put on pads and play tackle football, Gooden-Crandle recalls thinking, "I'm like, I don't want nobody to hurt my baby. And other parents are looking at me like, 'Have you seen him? He's hurting other people's babies He needs to be in pads.'"

Hall not only survived his premature birth and early health scares, but going on to become a 6-foot-3, 254-pound NFL player is a remarkable story that is literally hard to believe for those who cared for him as a micro preemie. Prior to being drafted, Hall visited the Mississippi hospital where he spent the first months of his life, and as Gooden-Crandle recalled, doctors and nurses who treated him, were like, 'There's no way this is the same kid.' I think it's a testament to, one, his will to live, and secondly to the grace of God."

Then in April, Gooden-Crandle got to watch as her son, the boy doctors said was unlikely to survive, and even less likely to live a normal life, heard his name called on Day 2 of the draft.

"It's a feeling I'll never forget," she said. "It's a moment I'll relive in my head forever. I still pinch myself sometimes and say, 'Is this my baby?' It was a great feeling to see his hard work, all of his dedication, all of the support of the people that love him the most—for them to be in the room and to share that experience with him—it was something I'll never forget."

Seven months later, Hall is living out his NFL dream, playing a significant role for the Seahawks on defense and special teams, and after all he overcame to get to this point, he'll never take a moment of it for granted.

"They say never forget where you come from, never forget what you've been through to get where you are," he said. "I'm truly humbled, and every opportunity I get, I'm like, 'Man, I'm really sitting here in the NFL.' I wake up every day with a smile on my face. It's a blessing. Less than one percent get the opportunity to play the game at this level. It's truly amazing."

Check out the custom-designed cleats for this years My Cause My Cleat. Some players will wear their cleats during the Week 13 Thursday Night game at Dallas.

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