The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

March 17, 2014

A Don McCormack column: Some good news from a good guy

— The big man at the small table peered at the screen of his laptop, alone with his thoughts, even as a whirlwind of activity buzzed all around him.

For Frank Hall, being left alone out in public these days is akin to a professional sports team from Cleveland winning a championship.

Of course, that solitude was interrupted, by a sports editor, no less, but he didn’t seem to mind.

The Lakeside football coach, known across the globe for the incredible courage he showed during the murders at Chardon High School on Feb. 27, 2012, was in good spirits and was quick with a smile, handshake and man-hug.

Our wide-ranging conversation lasted a good 20 minutes or so as we caught up with the comings and goings of both of us, which included his straight-from-the-heart interview on “60 Minutes” a couple weeks ago.

The exact details of our conversation weren’t intended for publication and they won’t be, but I’m confident Hall won’t mind me sharing this much with you, Loyal Readers:

He’s not going anywhere.

Period.

As you might expect, after his off-the-charts reactions and actions shown on that horrific day in Chardon, Hall has been in demand. From the cover of Sports Illustrated, which was the lead-in to a fantastic story by Gary Smith, to being interviewed by everyone and anyone and the subject of stories across the planet and finally to the appearance on “60 Minutes,” he has barely had time to catch his breath.

So I made it a point to attempt limit the scope of what I asked him, but could not get past the question of which everyone seems to want an answer — is he looking to move on to bigger things?

“No, absolutely not,” he said, looking his “interrogator” straight in the eye. “(His wife) Ashley and I are here for the long haul. We are exactly where we want to be doing what we want to do.”

Which entails building a family, raising their children and, yes, being the head football coach at Lakeside High School.

“I grew up and was raised here,” Hall, dressed in his Lakeside green pullover and ballcap and, despite the 30-degree temperatures outside, shorts, said. “I know what it’s like to come from this area and all the challenges young people face.

“Heck, it’s even more difficult now than it was when you and I were kids, I know, but ...”

His voice trailed off, though only for a moment.

“You and I both know, anyone can come up with as many excuses as we want to not make things work, to not be a success, to not do the right thing.

“But in the end, those are what they are — excuses.”

We talked about teams, players, coaches and conferences across the region, touching on several wonderful success stories, in particular, such as the spectacular Division I state wrestling championship of Dragon Kyle Conel, who went undefeated en route to bringing home the gold to Ashtabula County, and the great seasons put together by the Pymatuning Valley girls of Jeff Compan and the Geneva girls of Nancy Barbo en route to earning berths in the Sweet 16 in their respective divisions.

“Kyle and those kinds of seasons by those girls teams show it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” he said. “It’s about what you do and how hard you are willing to work and what sacrifices you are willing to make to earn that type of success — bottom line.”

In demand as a public speaker across the region, the big guy with a quiet demeanor is obviously not thrilled with all the attention that has come his way since February 2012, but understands, and more importantly, accepts it, though a bit begrudgingly.

“You know me,” he said through a hearty laugh. “I’d rather be seen than heard.

“But I know because of what’s happened, it comes with the territory. I’m doing what I’m God’s directing me to do.

“And if by doing so, I’m helping even one kid, than it’s all worth it.”

No, Frank Hall isn’t going anywhere.

Period.

For which we should all be thankful.

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon. Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.

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