Four interceptions, five kick returns for touchdowns. and three receiving touchdowns – that’s how Andre Hal finished his Port Allen high school football career, racking up a highlight reel in the 12th grade. He was quickly recruited by several universities and finally decided to be a Vanderbilt Commodore in January of 2010.
Once in college, Hal rose to the top of the depth chart in both kick returns and defensive back play. By the end of his true freshman year, Hal had cracked the starting lineup as both a defensive back and a kick returner. When his senior year at Vanderbilt rolled around, he was the #1 pass defender in the SEC, earning him second team All-SEC honors. Despite that, he languished in the 2015 NFL Draft until the seventh round when the Houston Texans called his name.
Now in his fourth year in Houston, Hal has eight interceptions, 85 total tackles, one sack, one touchdown, and a brand new three-year, $15 million contract inked this past August.
While he has yet to convince anyone he’s the next Ronnie Lott, Hal has contributed more to the Texans than, say, future Hall of Famer Ed Reed did.
While so many have lamented the loss of A.J. Bouye, keeping Andre Hal may prove to be the smarter decision. Not only is the safety position currently a greater need for Houston (the injury to Kevin Johnson notwithstanding), but Hal has a way of flashing at the right times. He intercepted Tom Brady in a key moment of the Texans’ Divisional Playoff game last year, and then had a pick of Marcus Mariota last week on the Titans’ first drive that set a 57-14 bulldozer rolling over the Titans. Hal followed that pick up with a second later in the game.
One of the biggest wins in professional football is being able to take a late round draft day gem like Hal and turn him into a consistent, playmaking starter. Houston’s greatest achievement in this area is a guy who wasn’t even drafted at all—Arian Foster. While Hal hasn’t been anywhere near Arian’s level of production, last week’s game is certainly going to make opposing quarterbacks think twice before testing him with a drive on the line. Those who do test Hal may have some success, but ultimately will pay the price.
Partnering Hal with veteran strong safety Marcus Gilchrist should also allow Hal more opportunity for growth. If Johnathan Joseph can continue his fountain of youth ways and Kevin Johnson can get back on the field, Houston’s secondary will no longer be the team’s biggest weakness.
It seems like one thing we can count on with the Texans is an unsung player rising through the ranks and becoming a star for the team each and every year. While Hal has a lot of work ahead of him, once he reaches his potential and his normal level of play falls in line with these flashes of brilliance, trips to the Pro Bowl will be a foregone conclusion.
What do you think of Hal? Glad he’s locked up for the next three seasons? Want to see him try his hand at kick returns here in H-Town? Drop your knowledge in the comments.