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Penn State's Hali is from family of survivors

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  • Penn State's Hali is from family of survivors


    Tamba Hali hasn't seen his mother since 1994, but that - he hopes - is about to change. While Hali fled to the United States to stay with his father, his mother stayed behind in war-torn Liberia.

    "I just want her to be by my side," said Hali, a defensive end from Penn State. "It's been tough. First going through life with your mother; then going through the second half of your 22 years without her. You deal with it and work through it. That's how life is. Full of adversity."

    Few players at the NFL scouting combine have been exposed to the level of adversity faced by Hali and his family.

    "The first time we got attacked (by rebels), the plane came down," Hali recalled. "We were sitting there. I remember my mother was cooking. Gunfire just started erupting all over the place."

    Such incidents happened with increasing frequency in Liberia, then in the midst of a civil war.

    "So we went into hiding," Hali said. "My stepdad got a car, and we went to a village far away from the city. ... Certain people would hide us. We'd have places to stay in little huts. You find ways to manage. You find ways to eat, cook and all of that. We'd spend six months there and then come back out."

    When military action heated up again, they'd head back to the countryside. Sometimes death was all around.

    "Sometimes it would be just one (body)," Hali said. "Sometimes you'd see a stack of bodies sitting on the side of the road while you were walking. A lot of kids (in Liberia) weren't educated. A lot of them would be running around killing people for no reason.

    "It's hard to explain to people what it's like to actually be in that situation, feeling like, 'Maybe today I could die, or see other people get killed.'"

    A couple of years ago, his mother, Rachel Keita, was shot in the leg.

    "She was walking with three or four other friends," Hali said. "They were walking in Monrovia. What I hear is that three other people got killed, and she got shot in the knee. By God's grace she's still alive."

    It may be difficult for Hali to fully explain his experiences to others. But he's getting plenty of practice during the interview sessions with teams at the combine.

    "We interviewed him (Friday) night," said New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi. "I was just overwhelmed with not only his story, but the way he told it. He's such a thoughtful, intellectual, moving person. ... I tell you what, you could hear a pin drop in our interview room when he was done telling us (his) story."

    Many chapters remain in Hali's story, many of which might deal with his burgeoning football career. A defensive tackle his first two seasons at Penn State, Hali blossomed after switching to defensive end as a junior. It all came together last season, when he was Big Ten defensive lineman of the year. He registered a league-high 11 sacks and was second in the league with 17 tackles for loss.

    Although he lacks ideal size at 6-3 and 275 pounds, Hali is quick off the edge, quick in pursuit, and has a nonstop motor.

    "He's just a relentless 'heart' player with a lot of talent," Accorsi said.

    Hali is considered by many to be the second-best defensive end in the draft, behind Mario Williams of North Carolina State. That should make him a certain first-round selection who probably will be on the board at No. 11 overall when the Rams pick.

    His mother doesn't know much about American football or the fact that Hali will soon be a millionaire.

    "She has no clue what's going on," Hali said. "If it were soccer, maybe. I told her about (football) on the phone, and she said it sounds rough. I said, 'Well, I really like playing it now.' She said, 'Be careful.'"

    Hali's father, Henry, teaches chemistry and physics in New Jersey. Hali's mother and father are divorced. Both have remarried.

    According to Hali, only blood relatives can file papers to bring a person over to the United States from Liberia. As soon as he becomes a U.S. citizen, he will do that.

    "I filled out all of the paperwork and am just waiting to get called to take the exam," Hali said.

    Once Hali gets his NFL signing bonus and gets his mother out of Africa, she will find life in the United States much different from what she was used to in Liberia.

    "It's going to be drastic for her," Hali said. "She's going to go from living in a hut to living in a nice home. I hope that will be able to explain a lot."

  • #2
    Re: Penn State's Hali is from family of survivors

    i don't know if i would want Hali right now, he would be a good fit as an end in a 4-3, but we might have to get players that can fit in both the 4-3 and 3-4


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      INDIANAPOLIS Ė As a broadcast journalism major at Penn State, perhaps Tamba Hali is the best person to tell you this story.

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