Elijah Qualls and Daeshon Hall were part of a group of players who committed to UW in 2012. Qualls ended up at UW but Hall went to Texas A&M. This week they are together again at the NFL Combine.
About four-and-a-half years after Elijah Qualls and Daeshon Hall first became teammates they finally wore the same jersey on a football field this weekend at the NFL combine.
Now prospective NFL draft picks, Qualls and Hall were once each part of an attention-getting attempt at talent gathering by the University of Washington, two of seven players who made their public commitment to become Huskies during a news conference at The Ram restaurant at the U Village on June 29, 2012. All of the players were in town for a summer football camp.
Illustrating well the vagaries of recruiting, only three of the seven who committed to UW that day ever suited up for the Huskies — Qualls, running back Lavon Coleman and receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow — as well as another who had already committed but showed up for support, quarterback Troy Williams.
The four who never became Huskies were Hall, a defensive end who ended up signing with Texas A&M; Andrew Basham, a lineman who did not qualify academically and ended up playing at Garden City (Kan). Community College; offensive lineman Poasi Moala, who signed with UCLA; and linebacker Caleb Tucker, who signed with Houston and later transferred to Louisiana-Monroe.
Three of the eight could have been at the combine, but Stringfellow was not invited due to the league’s policy of not allowing players who have convicted of violence or use of a weapon, domestic violence or sexual offenses to attend. Stringellow plead guilty to two counts of fourth-degree assault in an incident on the night the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2014 that ultimately led to his dismissal from UW and transfer to Mississippi.
Qualls said Stringfellow, generally considered as a late-round prospect, deserved to be invited.
“The situation that happened kind of set him back and gave him a little of a bad name,’’ Qualls said. “But he’s actually a really good dude. I don’t like putting myself around people who are not good people and don’t intend to get to good places and things like that, and he is a real good friend of mine.’’
Hall, who was born in Seattle, attended Garfield High as a sophomore and junior.
But he decided to move to Lancaster, Texas, where he also had family, for his senior season which helped lead to eventually switching his commitment to become an Aggie.
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Hall remembers the moment he committed to UW as “a fun day. We just all decided to commit to UW that day.’’
The ploy was orchestrated by then head coach Steve Sarkisian and recruiting coordinator Tosh Lupoi, who hoped it would draw publicity and help convince other players to become Huskies.
The gregarious Qualls, who had been something of a silent commit to UW for a while, also made a few calls to some of the other players helping to reel them in, as well.
“It was a whole like historic moment for everybody, like this big thing,’’ Qualls said. “But I didn’t even think about it like that in the first place. It was just me trying to get as many good players as I know can play ball to go to the same school as me.’’
Qualls said he had no hard feelings toward Hall or any of the others who didn’t become Huskies. In fact, he said he sometimes hung out with Hall when Hall would make returns to visit family in Seattle and they had dinner together a few times this week at the combine.
“Great dude,’’ Qualls said.
Hall, meanwhile, said he has “no regrets’’ about changing his college commitment. “Everything worked out well at A&M,’’ he said.
While UW prospered in 2016 without those who got away, Hall is one player the Huskies might have wanted down the stretch. Hall was often overlooked at Texas A&M playing on the same line with possible No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. But after moving to playing almost solely end instead of outside linebacker earlier in his career, he blossomed in his final year at A&M and now is regarded as a possible second- or third-round pick.
Due to injuries to the likes of Joe Mathis, the Huskies were shy enough of pass rushers down the stretch that they had to use Qualls — usually a tackle who weighed in at the combine at 313 pounds — as a stand-up end in the final stages of the season.
Qualls said that’s one of the first things NFL teams have asked him about at the combine.
“It’s not in a bad way,’’ Qualls said. “But everybody is just curious. Obviously I’m an interior defensive lineman — that’s about 99 percent of what my position will be in the NFL. And everybody is just curious as to why my team had me playing outside linebacker.
“I just explained to them that a couple of people had gotten hurt and I knew the scheme as well as anybody, so why not put me out there and have three of your best D-linemen out there on the field at the same time.’’
It’s the athletic ability that allowed Qualls to pull off playing that spot at a defensive tackle’s weight that is one of his calling cards at the combine. A one-time high school running back at Petaluma, Calif., when he weighed 260 pounds, Qualls ran a 5.13 40 Saturday morning, considered as good for a player his size and better than his generally listed 5.2, and an impressive bookend to finishing tied for second with Garrett among all defensive linemen with 33 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
While Qualls is now on the doorstep of the NFL, though, he remembers when simply getting to college seemed a lofty goal.
Having grown up in a rough area of Sacramento, it wasn’t until he moved to Petaluma as a junior that he began to see college as a possibility. And he said it was finally reaching that goal that stands out most when he remembers the day he, Hall and five others committed to UW.
“At that moment I was just excited I got to college,’’ he said. “College had always been something that was almost unreachable in my mind. I had never been on a college campus until I got my first scholarship offer. College was just something that rich people went to, in my mind. And once I finally realized I was good enough for it, I was just happy to get there.’’