The son of a football coach, accomplished college athlete and assistant coach himself, Ben Hall did not always peg himself as directing a team. He even gave up coaching for a time in favor of a business career.
But during his two to three years away from the sidelines, he could not shake the feeling.
“When I got out of coaching, I always had the itch, always went to games on Friday nights,” Hall said. “I tried to stay involved. I couldn’t shake the itch.”
Now his business is football — at Jefferson High School.
Hall, 37, was promoted from offensive coordinator/offensive line coach to head coach during a Jefferson City Schools Board of Education meeting last week. On Feb. 1, he’ll replace T. McFerrin, whose retirement was formally accepted at the same board meeting. McFerrin’s last day is Jan. 31.
In discussing the change, school board Chairman Ronnie Hopkins said McFerrin gave the “highest recommendation of coach Hall.”
He inherits a program that shocked Class AA last season with its 14-1 record and the school’s first-ever state title in the sport. The Dragons beat Calhoun 31-14 in the final.
What changes occur next season will be natural ones, Hall said. A new blend of the Dragons’ staple offense and defense will match the strengths of the 2013 team, Hall said.
“We lost some good players from last year’s team, four on offense four on defense. The ones we lost were major contributors,” Hall said. “Now it’s up to the coaching staff to evaluate the kids we have returning and the younger players, We have to find their strengths and kind of focus our strategy around those of our team.”
McFerrin recruited Hall to take the coordinator position at JHS in 2009. Before that, Hall served as offensive line coach at Flowery Branch High School, which ended the 2008 season as the runner-up in Class AAA.
In a similar way Hall arrived to the head coaching job. Just as the random phone call to Flowery Branch, McFerrin popped the same question on two separate occasions during and after last season.
“If I retire would you be interested in coaching Jefferson?” Hall recalled. His answer both times: Yes.
It’s not necessarily the path Hall envisioned in Tampa, where he worked as a vice-president of sales for a company in the building industry.
Even so, Hall knew the coaching world. His father Bill coached at several Georgia high schools. The family moved as his dad left one school for the next, including Rabun County, Union County, Manchester and Franklin County, where Hall graduated.
As a player, he won numerous awards as an offensive lineman at Furman University, where he also earned a master’s degree and started his career.
There, Hall was tested. His coaching superiors put him outside his area of expertise as a graduate assistant coach for receivers. Later, he served as assistant coach for tight ends.
During his time there as coach, Furman appeared in the Football Championship Subdivision finals and the coaching staff earned staff of the year. He remained there until 2004, working under Commerce native Bobby Lamb for several years. (Lamb’s brother is Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb.)
“I was, kind of early in my coaching career at Furman, forced out of my comfort zone. I was forced to learn,” Hall said. “I think that is a good foundation.”
He arrived to Flowery Branch with a background in the I-offense, which relies heavily on running. The Falcons put forward a no-huddle spread built for the passing game. A merger of the two has thrived at JHS under Hall.
“We’ve kind of married the two together here at Jefferson,” he said. “We run a multiple system on both sides of the ball, which was geared toward the strengths of our personnel. But we do have to adapt from year to year. We have not been truly the same during (any) two consecutive seasons during the four we’ve been here.”
Even with the coaching change and the team’s graduation, he envisions a smooth transition.
“I grew up in the profession,” Hall said. “I like the idea of establishment, of consistency.”
That includes how his family plans to handle the changes, he said.
Hall and his wife Diana plan to continue living in Flowery Branch.
They have three children, Mason, 4, Anna Claire, 2, and infant Burton, who was born during the second week of the football playoffs.