Sports Illustrated helped fulfill a lifelong dream of an Ohio football coach who emerged as a hero during a high school shooting that left three students dead last year, sharing his inspirational story on the cover of this week's magazine.
A year removed from chasing an armed T.J. Lane down a hallway and into the parking lot -- as bullets continued to fly around him, killing three and wounding three others -- former Chardon (Ohio) High assistant football coach Frank Hall has found humor again.
"One day, Sports Illustrated called, and my wife hollers down to the basement, 'Hey, it's Sports Illustrated,'" Hall joked to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "For guys my age, Sports Illustrated was 'it' back in the day, before ESPN. I'm thinking this will be my only chance to get in Sports Illustrated. I get on the phone and the lady says, 'I'd like to tell you about an exciting offer we have for a two-year subscription.'"
Hall spent a week with SI legend Gary Smith, a four-time National Magazine Award winner, who shares Hall's story against a backdrop of America's school violence problem. Waiting For Next Year offered this excerpt of a story available to paid subscribers:
Here it was, the question lodged in the recesses of all the educators’ brains in America, the one that their minds race to and away from without ever resolving, the one to which the rest of us seem to have unconsciously agreed to condemn them all: What will I do if a kid in my school pulls out a gun and starts shooting?
Here’s what Frank never could’ve guessed, all the years, his mind had darted to and from that question: His anger trumped everything; it trampled thought and even fear. It sent his legs barging right through his brown table and straight at the gunman, sent his hand flying up, sent his voice booming, “Stop! Stop!”
In addition to his role as the football team's offensive coordinator, Hall served as a beloved hall monitor in the school's cafeteria -- "ground zero" for Lane's deadly attack, the 39-year-old hero first told The Plain Dealer in a profile this past December.
When Hall heard what he first thought were firecrackers and then witnessed Demetrius Hewlin, Russell King Jr. and Daniel Parmertor fall victim to a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun, he gave chase. At one point evading Lane's aim behind a vending machine, Hall witnessed the gunman shoot Nick Walczak in the back before mercilessly retreating.
"As horrifying as everything was, when you hear about kids in that situation and you hear a coach did what he did, we all knew it was Frank right away," rival Jefferson (Ohio) High football coach Jim Henson told The Plain Dealer. Others expressed similar sentiments.
Hall prevented Lane from reloading his gun or entering a classroom, according to reports. In the past year, he struggled severely with survivor's guilt, but the hundreds of Chardon students he helped save did the same for him, offering him comfort throughout. The story of hundreds lining up to hug him at a basketball game is truly heartwarming.
According to The Plain Dealer report, Hall has since accepted a coaching position at Ashtabula (Ohio) Lakeside High, where he was a football and wrestling standout himself and where he and his wife raise their four adopted sons with a fifth on the way.