There are three parts to a winning football team – offense, defense, and special teams.
Teams may have excellent offensive and defensive units, but to win games, they also need excellent special teams.
Over a five-year career from 1979 to 1983, Dino Hall was one of the top players on special teams in Cleveland Browns history.
As a kickoff returner and punt returner, Hall helped the Browns earn two playoff berths in 1980 and 1982.
Dino Hall…gotta be pretty tough to play in NFL at 5’7”, 165 lbs pic.twitter.com/Ovj6Iu2saS
— On This Day: Cleveland Sports (@CityfanC) October 15, 2020
We take a look at the life of Dino Hall – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Donald Richard “Dino” Hall was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey on December 6, 1955.
Hall attended Pleasantville High School in Pleasantville, New Jersey.
Pleasantville is a neighboring city of Atlantic City.
After graduating high school, Hall stayed in New Jersey for college, as he decided to attend Glassboro State College in Glassboro, New Jersey.
Hall excelled in both football and baseball at Glassboro State College (which is now known as Rowan University).
Glassboro State College played at the NCAA Division III level.
He played football, principally at running back, at Glassboro State College from 1976 to 1978.
Hall set a Glassboro State College record for rushing yards gained in a single game, when he rushed for 255 yards, in a 49-22 Glassboro victory over William Paterson on November 10, 1978.
He was named the 1978 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Player of the Year and was a member of the 1978 ECAC Metro NY/NJ Region All=Star Team.
He was also a two-time New Jersey State Athletic Conference All-Conference first team selection.
While Hall played there, Glassboro State College posted records of 5-5 in 1976, 7-3 in 1977, and 7-3 in 1978.
Glassboro State College won the New Jersey State Athletic Conference football championship in 1976 and 1977.
Hall played baseball, principally as an outfielder, at Glassboro State College from 1975 to 1978.
He set a number of Glassboro State College baseball school records, including for stolen bases in a season and in a career.
In 1978, Hall helped Glassboro State College win the 1978 NCAA Division III baseball championship.
Hall was named to the 1978 All Tournament team.
Hall was named the 1978 New Jersey State Athletic Conference Athlete of the Year.
He ultimately graduated from Glassboro State College in 1982.
The Pro Football Years
Hall was not drafted by any team in the 1979 NFL draft.
He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cleveland Browns on June 14, 1979.
There is no guarantee that any undrafted free agent will make an NFL team as a rookie.
Playing at a height of only five feet and seven inches and at a weight of only 165 pounds, Hall was not of the typical height or weight of an NFL player.
Despite these obstacles, Hall joined the Browns and played in 11 regular season games in 1979.
DINO HALL! Blast from the past! Woof! https://t.co/cgiqXnMNOP
— LundDAWG (@BeachDawg_RLund) December 13, 2019
On October 7, 1979, playing in his first NFL regular season game, Hall returned nine kickoffs for 172 yards and two punts for 58 yards, in a 51-35 Cleveland loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Hall also rushed for seven yards on one rushing attempt.
On October 28, 1979, Hall scored his first NFL regular season touchdown, on a 52-yard run, as Cleveland defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 38-20.
Hall rushed for 61 yards on two rushing attempts and also returned three kickoffs for 68 yards and one punt for nine yards.
For the 1979 NFL regular season, Hall returned 50 kickoffs for 1,014 yards and 29 punts for 295 yards, rushed for 152 yards and the above-described one touchdown on 22 rushing attempts, and caught two passes for 14 yards.
Dino Hall pic.twitter.com/awdEEzL4FJ
— Ji❌Caldwell (@JimCaldwell65) October 8, 2020
Hall ranked sixth in kickoff return yards, third in average yards per punt return (10.2), and fourth in total kickoff return and punt return yards (1,309), in the 1979 NFL regular season.
This Day (CLE): 10/7/1979
Dino Hall sets team record with 9 kickoff returns in loss to Stillers. Because of his small stature (5'7"/165 lbs) & college (Glassboro State), the undrafted free agent was an inspiration for many a small kid with dreams of playing in NFL. Tough as nails pic.twitter.com/VuiwyTtqBL
— On This Day: Cleveland Sports (@CityfanC) October 7, 2020
Cleveland had a 9-7 record in 1979, but failed to make the playoffs.
Hall helped the Browns rank in the 1979 NFL regular season sixth in kickoff return yards (1,531), 10th in punt return yards (345), tied for eighth in average yards per punt return (8.4), ninth in points scored (359), third in total passing and rushing yards (5,772), sixth in passing yards (3,491), and tied for third in average yards per rushing attempt (4.5).
In 1980, Hall played in all 16 regular season games.
During the 1980 NFL regular season, in addition to his above-described two rushing attempts, Hall returned 32 kickoffs for 691 yards and six punts for 41 yards.
Cleveland, with an 11-5 record, won the AFC Central Division title in 1980.
Hall contributed to the Browns ranking in the 1980 NFL regular season 10th in kickoff return yards (1,308), tied for sixth in average yards per kickoff return (20.8), and fifth in total passing and rushing yards (5,588).
In Cleveland’s first playoff game since 1972, the Browns met the Oakland Raiders in a divisional round playoff game on January 4, 1981.
Hall returned two kickoffs for 47 yards and five punts for 57 yards (only Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe accounted for more total yards for the Browns than Hall).
However, the Browns lost to the Raiders 14-12.
In 1981, Hall played in 12 regular season games.
Hall returned 36 kickoffs for 813 yards and 33 punts for 248 yards in the 1981 NFL regular season.
He ranked ninth in kickoff return yards and eighth in total kickoff return and punt return yards (1,061) in the 1981 NFL regular season.
Cleveland had a 5-11 record in 1981.
With Hall’s play, the Browns ranked in the 1981 NFL regular season fifth in kickoff return yards (1,537) and eighth in average yards per kickoff return (21.3).
Hall played in nine regular season games in 1982 (which was the full length of the 1982 regular season because of a players’ strike).
Hall returned 22 kickoffs for 430 yards during the 1982 NFL regular season.
Cleveland had a 4-5 record in 1982, which was sufficient under the expanded playoff system in use in 1982 (16 teams made the playoffs) for the Browns to earn a playoff berth.
Hall helped the Browns rank in the 1982 NFL regular season tied for ninth in kickoff return yards (754).
On January 8, 1983, Cleveland played the Los Angeles Raiders in a playoff game.
Hall returned four kickoffs for 86 yards, but the Browns lost to the Raiders 27-10.
In 1983, Hall played in all 16 regular season games.
For the 1983 NFL regular season, Hall returned 11 kickoffs for 237 yards and 39 punts for 284 yards, rushed for two yards on one rushing attempt, and caught four passes for 33 yards.
Cleveland had a 9-7 record in 1983, but failed to make the playoffs.
Hall contributed to the Browns ranking in the 1983 NFL regular season seventh in average yards per kickoff return (20.5), 10th in total passing and rushing yards (5,583), and sixth in passing yards (3,661).
The Browns win over the Steelers on December 18, 1983 turned out to be Hall’s last NFL regular season game.
He was waived by Cleveland on August 27, 1984 and did not play again in an NFL regular season game after the 1983 season.
The Years After the NFL
After his NFL career was over, Hall was a teacher and coach at Pleasantville High School.
Hall was inducted into the Glassboro State College Hall of Fame in 1986.
In 2014, Hall was inducted into the Gloucester County Sports Hall of Fame.
Gloucester County is on southern New Jersey.
He was also inducted into the South Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014.
Hall is one of the top kickoff and punt returners in Browns history.
Former Browns running back Dino Hall pic.twitter.com/JqbLqxwwDT
— Paul Rutigliano (@RutiglianoPaul) February 17, 2018
In terms of kickoff returns, Hall ranks second in Browns career regular season kickoff return yards (3,185) and 11th, among players with at least 50 kickoff returns, in Browns career regular season average yards per kickoff return (21.1).
In terms of punt returns, Hall ranks sixth in Browns career regular season punt return yards (901) and 11th, among players with at least 50 punt returns, in Browns career regular season average yards per punt return (8.1).
It is interesting from Hall’s return statistics thar his longest kickoff return was only for 48 yards and his longest punt return was only for 47 yards.
Hall accumulated his return yards with steady, consistent play, rather than based on a few long returns.
While Browns fans may recall Hall’s ability as a returner, they may not remember his contributions to Cleveland as a receiver and a rusher.
As a receiver, Hall caught 11 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown.
As a rusher, Hall rushed for 194 yards and one touchdown on 27 rushing attempts.
It is especially impressive that Hall’s 7.2 average yards per rushing attempt ranks second, among players with at least 20 rushing attempts, in Browns career regular season history.
Hall’s playing time was limited because he was a back-up to such excellent Cleveland running backs as Greg Pruitt and Mike Pruitt.
Had Hall received more playing time as a running back, his statistics would even be higher.
With his contributions as a kickoff returner, punt returner, receiver, rusher, and otherwise, Hall helped Cleveland win games.
During Hall’s five seasons with the Browns, Cleveland had only one losing season, made the playoffs in two seasons, and won its division in one season.
Probably the most important point to note about Hall is that he overcame several obstacles to have his successful career with the Browns.
First, he overcame the obstacle of not playing college football at a major national program.
Second, he overcame the obstacle of not being a high draft pick (or being drafted at all).
Third, he overcame the obstacle of small size.
Speaking about Hall, his teammate Browns offensive tackle Doug Dieken said:
“He was one of the toughest guys I ever played with.”
For every person who plays college football at a small school similar to Glassboro State College or who is signed as an undrafted free agent or who is under five feet and eight inches in height or under 170 pounds in weight, Dino Hall can be your role model.
He showed that despite these obstacles, you can still have success in the NFL.