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Dante Hall, the Chiefs’ ‘Human Joystick’; Where is he now?
Sep 26, 2004; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dante Hall runs after a catch against the Houston Texans at Arrowhead Stadium. (Credit: Craig Melvin-USA TODAY Sports)

Dante Hall, the Chiefs’ ‘Human Joystick’; Where is he now?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BVM) – Dante Hall earned the nicknames “X-Factor” and the “Human Joystick” during his prolific seven-year NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs in the early 2000s. His elite quickness, change of direction and breakaway speed made him one of the greatest kick return specialists in NFL history.

Setting the stage for future kick return mavens like Devin Hester, Josh Cribbs and others, Hall’s NFL career and the “X” he would form by crossing his forearms whenever he scored a touchdown in reference to one of his legendary nicknames won’t soon be forgotten.

Dante Hall’s early life

Hall was born on Sept. 20, 1978 in Lufkin, Texas and went on to attend Nimitz High School in Houston, the same high school as former first-round NFL draft pick and 15-year NFL veteran Aaron Glenn (1990). After Hall’s biological father passed away, Nimitz head football coach Burnis Simon became his surrogate father.

Hall remained close to home after his 1995 graduation from Nimitz and soon after, made a real name for himself on the gridiron at Texas A&M.

Dante Hall’s Texas A&M career

Hall immediately made his presence felt as a running back and return specialist in College Station after racking up 642 rushing yards and 573 punt return yards in his true freshman season (1996) which earned him Big 12 Freshman of the Year and first team All-Big 12 honors. He rushed for 973 yards and nine touchdowns the following season, earning second team All-Big 12 honors, before his best season as an Aggie when his 1,024 rushing yards and eight touchdowns helped Texas A&M go 11-2.

That special season ended on a sour note for the Aggies – they lost to No. 3 Ohio State in 1998 Sugar Bowl, 24-14 – and just 10 months later, Hall’s collegiate career was over in disappointing fashion.

On Nov. 8, 1999, Texas A&M head coach R.C. Slocum dismissed Hall from the team for violations of the team’s policy. Slocum never went into specifics, and Hall believed at the time that his dismissal was rooted in parking violations.

But nearly 15 years later, Hall reflected on the behavior that led to his ousting.

“To put it bluntly, I was a knucklehead,” Hall told in 2014. “I was an immature, naïve knucklehead. If I could do it all over again, I would handle it so much differently; it would be handled 100 percent differently. Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time.”

Hall concluded his Texas A&M career as one of the best in program history. He finished with 2,818 rushing yards, 22 rushing touchdowns, 943 punt return yards, two punt returns for scores and 686 kick return yards. His 4,706 all-purpose yards currently rank fourth all-time in program history and he is the first Aggie with more than 2,000 career rushing yards and over 500 yards in both career punt and kickoff return yards.

Despite Slocum’s dismissal of Hall from the team, the former Aggies’ head coach reportedly called one general manager ahead of the 2000 NFL Draft to assure him that they wouldn’t have any issues with the speedy return man: Carl Peterson of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dante Hall’s NFL career

After measuring in at 5-foot-7, 191 pounds and running a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Dante Hall in the fifth round of the 2000 NFL Draft with the 153rd overall pick. Despite now being known as one of the best draft acquisitions in franchise history, Hall’s NFL career got off to a slow start.

Chiefs quarterback Trent Green told The Athletic in 2021 that Hall’s pro career was a struggle out the gate as he adjusted to a new position. Primarily a running back at Texas A&M, Hall’s miniature frame didn’t fit the mold of the position at the NFL level. Nagging injuries early on didn’t help either as Hall’s rookie season came and went after he suited up in just five games, producing a combined 395 yards off kick and punt returns.

Kansas City fired head coach Gunther Cunningham following Hall’s rookie season and brought in Dick Vermeil. Experience with talented kick returners such as Alvin Haymond, Az-Zakir Hakim, Tony Horne and others dating back to his days as special teams coach with the Los Angeles Rams in the late 60s gave Vermeil high hopes for Hall’s prospects in the return game. Vermeil also wanted Hall to continue to learn the nuances of the wide receiver position which led to him playing for the NFL Europe’s Scottish Claymores as a slot receiver in the spring of 2001.

Cramped locker rooms, cold showers and other commonalities of the NFL Europe experience made Hall even more hungry to live up to the belief his new head coach had in him.

“Without the heavenly-sent Dick Vermeil, my career probably would’ve been over after another year or two,” Hall told The Athletic in 2021. “The biggest thing was just his belief in me before I had even done anything. He had blind faith.”

Hall came out a different man in his second season, racking up a combined 1,204 yards on kick and punt returns in 2001, and his NFL career took off from there.

He scored his first kick return touchdown as a pro in Week 2 of the 2002 NFL season against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the next week, he made five Houston Texans miss before returning a punt into the endzone in just fourteen seconds.

The “Human Joystick” and “X-Factor” was born.

Hall’s streak of scoring a touchdown on a kickoff or punt return in four straight games in 2003 has still never been broken. He scored 10 touchdowns and amassed 2,309 all-purpose yards during an eye-popping 13-game stretch from 2002-03 in which the Chiefs went 11-2. Hall earned second team All-Pro honors following the 2002 NFL season before cracking the first team in 2003 and was a Pro Bowler in back-to-back seasons (2002-03).

As Hall’s game rose, so did his popularity to the point that David Letterman invited him to appear on his late-night show. A show where you’d typically see superstar quarterbacks with Super Bowl rings, Hall was the first punt return specialist to appear on Letterman.

Hall’s strong play continued on special teams for the next three seasons. He had a career-high 1,718 kick return yards in 2004 and never had fewer than 1,478 kick return yards from 2004-06. But Hall’s time in Kansas City ended in 2007 when the Chiefs traded him to the St. Louis Rams for a fifth-round draft pick. He recorded his 12th career return touchdown in 2007 and combined for 1,492 kick return yards across his two seasons with the Rams (15 games), but ankle issues limited him to just eight games in 2008 before he retired from the NFL after that season.

Dante Hall’s career earnings, net worth

Hall never made more than $2 million in a single season, likely due to his primary role as a special teams maven, but his net worth is estimated at $10 million.

Where is Dante Hall now?

Hall and his wife, son and two daughters currently live in New Jersey but back in 2013, the “X-Factor” became the running backs coach at St. Anthony High School in Long Beach, California. Then in 2016, Hall spent nearly five months as radio co-host at KILT 610 AM in Houston.

The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame inducted Hall as a member in 2018 but Texas A&M followed suit in 2021, inducting the “Human Joystick” into its Athletic Hall of Fame.

The first team NFL 2000s All-Decade Team punt returner will forever be remembered by Chiefs, Aggies and football fans alike as one of the greatest return men in NFL history.

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