University football squad mourns death of teammate

by Brian Hall

Minnesota football coach Glen Mason and his players decided one way to help cope with teammate Brandon Hall’s death was to come together as a team and draw on each other’s strength.

So with Monday off, Mason thought it was a good idea to serve dinner for the players at the team’s Gibson-Nagurski Complex.

“It was one of the best things we did,” Mason said. “Get them all here and get them together. It’s about family. Families, good families, if that’s the right word. When your family needs you, you come together, and you are there.”

The team resumed practice on Tuesday and will hold regular practices before leaving to play LouisianañLafayette on Saturday.

“The dinner last night was a start of our team realizing that we need to do things more as a team,” junior captain Asad Abdul-Khaliq said. “We all hang out once in a while, but most of the time we were all in our own little groups. What the dinner last night did was that freshman, senior, sophomore, walk-on, whatever you are, it shouldn’t matter, and you should know your teammates as well as a family member. That dinner was the start of that,” he said.

Minnesota players will commemorate their teammate by displaying a No. 71 patch on their jerseys for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Hall’s jersey number will not be worn by a member of the Minnesota football team until 2005, the year Hall would have graduated.

Abdul-Khaliq said each player is returning to its normal routines and grieving in varying degrees. He said the team’s emotions have been up and down since first hearing about Hall’s death Sunday morning.

Minneapolis police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington said Hall, a defensive lineman, was apparently coming to the aid of teammate Damian Haye.

Haye was allegedly robbed and assaulted outside in the Minneapolis warehouse district early Sunday morning.

Hall, Haye and some other teammates and friends allegedly confronted three men who Haye said had stolen his gold necklace. One of the three men then pulled a gun and shot Hall in the upper torso, according to police.

Hall died at Hennepin County Medical Center shortly afterward.

The three suspects remain in custody in connection with Hall’s death, but no formal charges have been made.

Abdul-Khaliq said the teammates who were a part of Sunday morning’s proceedings have been dealt a particularly hard blow.

“Some of the guys who were actually there that night are on another emotional level than most of us,” Abdul-Khaliq said. “To be around or even see your brother in a situation like that, and you can’t do anything about it, would be enough to drive a man to the point that nothing else matters.

“Those guys are still grieving a lot. The rest of the team, all we can do is be there. We try to talk to those guys every day, but it’s not our place to try and rush those guys back.”

Mason said he has also had a tough time learning how to grieve and move on, and the coach is saddled with the task of helping his players do the same. He said it’s a constant learning experience, something he has never been trained to handle.

“The toughest part is knowing what to say,” Mason said. “I am not normally short on words. But what do you say?”

“That is the thing about it: When you are in a position of leadership, people expect you to lead. Sometimes by choice you take a position of leadership, sometimes just by where you sit they all look. And not having a lot of expertise in this and not knowing a lot of people who have that expertise, it’s tough. It’s crazy. The problem with the whole thing is, for what? The kid is dead for what? It’s insane.”

There will be a memorial service for Hall at Williams Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m. Hall’s mother and minister will attend the service, which is open to the public.

Hall’s funeral will take place at the Word of Faith International Christian Center in Detroit on Monday. Mason will attend the funeral, but it’s still not been decided whether players and other staff will attend.

Brian Hall covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]