A race between Rhett Hall and persistence would have likely ended in a dead heat.
Drafted by Tampa Bay in 1991, the Buccaneers waived the defensive tackle five times over the next three seasons. Moving on to San Francisco in 1994, the 49ers also placed him on the waiver wire once.
"I was just kind of that bubble guy that they knew they could get rid of and bring back. It was a difficult period," Hall said. "I had made the decision when I got to San Francisco that if I didn't stick than I was done. The first week, Jerry Rice broke the touchdown record on Monday Night Football against the Raiders, and the next day they cut me.
"So on Tuesday I was cut, and on Wednesday I went to work for a buddy at a tile shop. And that day Indianapolis called. So I flew out there and worked out and they were ready to sign me, but San Francisco said no, we're thinking about bringing him back."
That proved to be a sound move. Hall started the final two games of the 1994 season in place of an injured Dana Stubblefield, and sacked Denver quarterback John Elway three times in the first game and recorded five tackles against Minnesota in the second. And despite playing as a reserve behind Stubblefield again in the playoffs, Hall registered three more sacks, including two in the NFC Championship Game against Dallas, and helped San Francisco win Super Bowl XXIX.
Just days after earning the Lombardi Trophy, San Francisco's defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes became Philadelphia's new head coach. Soon after that, Hall followed Rhodes and became an Eagle, as well.
"Up until that point I was a backup," said Hall, who signed with Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent. "(San Francisco was) where I grew up, so I had a few things tugging on me, but ultimately at the end of the day, we're all looking for opportunity and the right environment to have success. There was no question that the opportunity to get to Philadelphia and play under Ray was absolutely the right decision."
After earning a starting spot alongside Andy Harmon in the Eagles' 4-3 defense, Hall suffered a setback as the 1995 preseason was wrapping up when he developed a respiratory problem.
"I had shortness of breath. Just simple little movements and I couldn't breathe," Hall said. "Thank goodness at that point, Mike Trgovac, the defensive line coach, pulled me out and said, 'Rhett, why don't you take it easy?' and I did.
"I had no idea what was going on. The doctor took my pulse and blood pressure and told me, 'I think we're going to head to the hospital.' So I knew there was something wrong. But we're kind of conditioned at that point to ignore things that are going on in our bodies that are holding us back to trying to perform at a high level. And I wanted to do that. Not just because of the kind of person I am, but also because I had just come to Philadelphia and had a lot of expectations. I know that Ray had expectations and the people of Philadelphia had expectations that you'll show up and you'll help the team win."
Multiple blood clots were detected in Hall's lungs, and he was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism.
"When you're diagnosed with something like that, it helps you put football in perspective and what you're doing," said Hall. "My first and foremost thought was getting healthy. It was just within a matter of weeks I felt like I'm going to be fine and I'm going to play again. It's just a matter of how long it's going to take to get back out there."
Even though Hall saw playing time in the final two games of the 1995 campaign, he was anxious for the following season to get started so he could show what he was able to do on the field when he wasn't weighed down by health problems.
"Our mentality as football players is to get between the white lines and compete," he said. "We do enjoy the offseason, but particularly in my case where I missed a bunch of time, I was very eager to get back out there. Very eager to compete and very eager to help the Philadelphia Eagles win football games."
Playing in every game in 1996, Hall notched 4.5 sacks and returned a fumble for a touchdown. In 1997, he led the Eagles with a career-high eight sacks and recorded an interception off of Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman before suffering a knee injury in the second-to-last game of the year.
"I was actually having a decent season up to that point," Hall said. "And so after the end of the '97 season, Philly (placed the transition tag on) me. I was rehabbing my knee all offseason trying to come back and then I fractured my patella early in the (1998) season. That was kind of a result of me tearing my knee up the prior season."
Hall played in just two games in 1998 because of the injuries, and retired after four seasons in Philadelphia. Following that, he transitioned into a second career as a financial advisor and is now in his 14th year at Wells Fargo Advisors in San Jose, California.
"All in all, I still miss football. I still miss the locker room. I still miss the guys, the coaches, the organizations I played for, but I think the transition went pretty well. I feel like I was prepared. Like anything else, if your heart is in it and you're willing to work hard at it, usually the results are going to be favorable."
Making his home in the San Jose suburb of Morgan Hill, Hall and his wife, Juli, have four sons: Logan, 19; Cade, 16; Eli, 14; and Rhys, 10, who was born with Down syndrome.
For the past seven years, the family has run Football Camp for the Stars for men and boys, 15 – 45, who have Down syndrome. This year's camp will be held at Valley Christian High School in San Jose on June 10 and 11.