Derick Hall with his sister and mom, Stacey Gooden-Crandle
On the day he entered the world, Derick Hall wasn’t expected to live.
Born at 23.5 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces, Hall was placed on life support with a litany of critical health problems, including bleeding in the brain and underdeveloped organs.
“The doctor’s prognosis for his life was grim,” recalls Hall’s mother, Stacy Gooden-Crandle. “They said he would never walk, never talk, and he would be 85 percent mentally (disabled) if he lived. They said he would live in a vegetated state.”
But mother and son chose to fight as he made daily strides that first week. Although Hall was released to go home after five months, the struggle was far from over. He didn’t walk until he was 18 months old due to developmental delays, and a difficult journey filled with speech therapy, physical therapy and endless doctor appointments lasted for over three years.
Nonetheless, Gooden-Crandle knew her boy was destined for greatness.
“I saw his work ethic and determination,” she says, “so yeah, I can say I knew he would accomplish anything he put his mind to.”
OVERCOMING THE ODDS
So she was proud, but not surprised when Hall graduated at the top of his class from Gulfport High School with a 3.76 grade-point average while playing three sports, plus Amateur Athletic Union basketball at a high level. She likewise celebrated when he became Gulfport High’s first-ever Under Armour All American and went on to become an NFL prospect while playing for the Auburn Tigers; she knew Hall had it in him all along.
Hall is equally impressed by his mother, social service program coordinator for The Salvation Army, who overcame a cycle of generational poverty, was one of the first college graduates in her family and juggled being a single mom, full-time employee, and student.
“Mom, I love you so much; you mean the world to me,” Hall told a packed audience at his All-American selection ceremony. “Without you, I don’t know where I’d be right now.”
In her athletically gifted son, Gooden-Crandle sees a “gentle giant” who is funny, outgoing, and adores his family. An avid outdoorsman, he can be found fishing into the early hours when he comes home to the Coast.
When he’s on the field, Hall has a habit of seeking out his mother in the stands.
“I see his eyes glance around the stadium until he finds me, and the smile on his face is by far the best feeling in the world,” Gooden- Crandle says. “My son is proof that God’s grace and mercy still exist.”
FAITH THROUGH ADVERSITY
As Hall’s star continues to rise, the attention has taught him and his mother to have a thick skin and not take criticism to heart. That approach served them well after Gooden- Crandle got flack for a comment she posted during the 2021 NFL Draft: “Derick, we are up next.” While many respondents were supportive, the remark — meant as a testament to Hall’s hard work and her sacrifices to get him to this point — also attracted some negativity.
Wanting to set an example for her children, Gooden-Crandle recognized the importance of responding properly and not retaliating with unkindness.
“I love to share my story of how I overcame a lot of adversity in my life because if I can encourage my children to live without regrets and fear of what others think, I feel like I have done my job,” she says. “My family is strong, and we walk in strong faith that God will see us through anything.”
Gooden-Crandle also believes that with God’s help, Hall can realize his dream of graduating next summer, playing for the New Orleans Saints, and becoming a civil engineer once he retires from the NFL. According to Gooden- Crandle, “Derick is a giver,” so she’s sure he’ll find ways to give back as he achieves ever more success.
“With all the prestige of being a high-profile athlete, he has remained grounded and humble,” she says, “and I just know being humble is who he is and who he will continue to be.”
Writer for Gulf Coast Woman Magazine.