A former NFL player is now in a Los Angeles jail, accused of murdering his mother. Family members say De'von Hall has been mentally ill for years, and they point to the damage he sustained during his football career.
A native of Los Angeles who played college ball at Utah State, the 29-year-old Hall had a short NFL career as a defensive back. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2009, then played four games for the Colts before being claimed off waivers by the Bucs in December 2009.
He spent much of the 2010 offseason with the Bucs before being waived that August, and also had a brief stint with the Panthers in 2011, as well as with a pair of CFL teams.
However, Hall's professional football career was marked by increasingly erratic behavior, and he descended into homelessness in the following years. His mother, Alecia Benson, eventually took him back into her home, but a witness told police that he "stomped her out" there in April.
In a lengthy feature published Thursday by the Los Angeles Times, a Utah State coach said of Hall's mother, "She was his rock." The story claims that some family members "don't think Hall understands his mother is dead."
Regarding Hall's transformation from a well-meaning youngster to what he became as an adult, "It was like a switch that had gone off," a cousin of Hall's, Angela Benson-Williams, told CBS Los Angeles in May. "I didn't recognize my cousin anymore."
"He turned into something that became vicious," Hall's uncle, Tony Benson, told the station, "and that was the sport he was in. The more vicious, the more accolades you get."
"Football is a very rough sport, and it can have deleterious consequences that impact health, mental well-being and can acutely impact other people's lives, as well," another cousin, Brenden Benson, told the station. According to CBS L.A., the family said that Hall had suffered numerous concussions while playing college and pro football.
Former Utah State coaches and teammates told the Times that they didn't recall Hall getting concussed, but one teammate noted that, with head injuries, "a lot of things go under the table." Another possibility considered by some former teammates was that Hall had become addicted to drugs after smoking weed laced with a stronger substance at a party he attended in Miami while with the Bucs.
According to the Times, Hall had told some ex-teammates that he was in a car accident in Tampa that resulted in him hitting his head and subsequently being put in a straitjacket, "then injected with an unknown substance to calm down." In 2010, Hall was on his way home from Florida when he was arrested in New Mexico for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, after a woman told police that he had tried to run her off a road.
To Tony Benson, Hall's troubles began in the NFL, and the league had a responsibility to investigate and treat his symptoms of illness. "The NFL, in my opinion, should've done a better job in making sure they took care of this kid," he told the Times.
While Hall is being held on $1 million bail as his court proceedings continue, another Utah State teammate, Dionte Holloway, said of the young man he knew, "De'von mentally is gone." He added, "That's not the De'von I know, that's not the De'von I went to school with, that's not my friend, that's somebody who was out of their mind."