From the NICU to the NFL: How Derick Hall’s Early Arrival Couldn’t Stop Him
Derick Hall’s path to the NFL Draft is one that couldn’t have been predicted in 2001. Before he was a top-150, 4-star recruit out of Gulfport High School and a captain of the Auburn Tigers Football Team, his mom, Stacy, was fighting for her 2-pound, 9-ounce baby boy born four months early at Memorial.
Stacy was eight days from turning 27 when Derick unexpectedly made his appearance. She says, “I had a normal pregnancy with Derick. Nothing was abnormal, and there were no complications prior to the date he was born.”
A bleak outlook
“I don’t quite remember the diagnosis, I just remember him having to be put on life support, he had bleeding in the brain, fluid around the brain (he had a tube to drain the fluid), he had to have a feeding tube and he had jaundice. He had underdeveloped lungs as well,” Stacy shares. Her biggest fear after giving birth was that she wouldn’t be able to financially support a baby that she was told could have severe medical complications.
Derick was hospitalized at the Memorial Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for nearly five months. Once he was released to go home, medical treatment consisted of numerous appointments each week.
The will to live
Starting at age 6, Derick was considered comparable with his peers and showed no additional signs of developmental delays. Stacy reflects, “He still suffered from respiratory illness and had semi-annual CT/MRI scans, but he had made so much progress in those six years. I think a lot of the credit for getting him caught up was because he was enrolled in the First Steps Program (an Early Intervention Program offered through the Mississippi State Department of Health).”
When asked what she learned about herself and Derick in those early years, Stacy shares, “We were a lot stronger than we thought we were. He was resilient in his will to live, and I would walk the earth two times over just to get to the point we are today. I learned that we were not quitters, and as long as Derick showed signs of improvement, I was going to fight for his life with all that I had.”
Strength and character
Even when he was in an incubator in the NICU, Derick’s family noticed the characteristics that would differentiate him. He was born 23.5 inches long, and Stacy mentions that his grandmother noticed the significant size of his hands. Now, he stands at 6’ 3” and weighs 256 pounds.
Derick became an elite athlete at Gulfport High School, earning all-state honors in football. He also started for the Admirals basketball team, and he was a state finalist in the 200-meter dash. Multiple Division 1 universities and colleges extended offers, and he selected Auburn University in 2019. His accomplishments at Auburn are numerous, and his future in the NFL is bright.
What Stacy is most proud of, though, is his “character and integrity”. She adds, “He is big in stature, but so modest and caring in his tone and how he handles people. He treats people with respect regardless of what they do and where they are in their lives.”
When asked who his biggest inspiration is, Derick shares, “Hands down, my mom. My mom is my hero and my go-to person. She has made so many sacrifices for me and my sister that without her, I don’t know if I would be here today and be the man that I am.”
Dedicated to service
The challenges Derick and his mom faced have inspired him to help others. He is working on obtaining his 501(c)(3) charitable licenses to establish a foundation, projected to launch this fall. He hopes to support NICU families through his foundation, and he has visited NICUs as part of his community outreach with teammates.
He shares, “Being a kid who came from humble beginnings, it was important for me to make a difference in my community now that I have the platform to do so. Volunteering with my mom, I have seen families come in asking for assistance with the necessities such as food and clothing that some of us take for granted.”
While he works to launch his foundation, he continues to support his community. He adds, “I have partnered with a local non-profit organization to help fight food insecurities, sent water to Jackson to fight the water crisis, donated toys to the local Boys & Girls Clubs, and many other service events to help through their work and mission.”
Never lose hope
When asked what they would share with families who are experiencing a similar situation, Derick says, “Stay strong, pray, and don’t think that all hope is lost because that’s what you’re being told.”
“Be an advocate for your baby, enjoy every moment, and celebrate every win no matter how little it may be. Stay positive while you’re visiting your baby and know that God is a healer. My faith has gotten me through a lot of difficult moments while my baby was in the hospital,” Stacy says. When asked about her experience at Memorial NICU, she shares, “No words I can ever speak will amount to the gratitude in my heart for the care and consideration given to my baby, myself, and my family. I am forever indebted to you all, the NICU staff, for what they did for my baby.”
Congratulations on your many successes, Derick, and we at Memorial will be cheering you on as you take the next step in your career!
Memorial is home to the only Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The Children’s of Mississippi NICU cares for sick infants and newborns in Gulfport and surrounding communities and is staffed by board-certified neonatologists.