Allen Park — Marvin Hall Jr. will be playing his first NFL game in his home state of California on Sunday.
It’s also the last time he’ll play at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum against his childhood favorite team, the Oakland Raiders.
If these past few weeks are any indication, Hall will be due for at least one big play at some point during the proceedings.
Out of players who have at least five receptions, Hall leads the NFL with 40.2 yards per catch, outpacing the competition by nearly double — Devin Smith of Dallas is second at 22.6.
“It’s surreal, just to take the path I took, and to make the impact I’ve made here, it’s a blessing,” Hall said. “You have a gunslinger, and he’s going to put the ball up when he has any type of matchup. And I love it.”
That gunslinger, quarterback Matthew Stafford, has only targeted Hall seven times, with Hall coming down with it five times for 201 yards.
“Sometimes the ball finds him, sometimes it doesn’t, that’s kind of the way it is in this offense,” Stafford said. “As you guys have seen, we’ve spread it around a bunch, and he was just one of those guys that has made some big plays when his number has been called. I can’t explain it. I just happen to — I feel like look his way when he’s on the run.”
Hall was undrafted in 2016 out of Washington where he didn’t catch 10 balls in any single season and signed with the Raiders. He was cut after training camp and didn’t see the field in the NFL until the following season with Atlanta.
He had 10 catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns with the Falcons and returned kicks last season at a 23.7-yard clip, tying for eighth in the league.
After being cut in training camp by Chicago, which has sputtered in the passing game, Hall joined the Lions the week of the season opener in Arizona. Hall made his debut in Week 3 at Philadelphia and his first catch against Kansas City the following week.
Hall said he ran the 100 meters in the 10.4-seconds range as a high school sprinter at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles.
He also played baseball, which could help explain his ability of tracking ball high up in the air.
Most of Hall’s catches have been the over-the-shoulder variety and his completions have gone for 13, 34, 58, 47 and 49 yards this season. Hall became the first Lions’ player to record a reception of 45-or-more yards in three straight games since Bill Schroeder did so in 2002.
Despite the lofty numbers Hall put up this month, he had not reached the end zone for the Lions until Sunday, when his 49-yarder put his team up 14-0 early.
After making the grab, Hall pointed to his wrist twice and then to the sky, repeating the motions again after that. He said it’s a mantra he developed with friends, one they talk about daily.
“God’s timing,” Hall said. “That’s what I tell myself, day in and day out. Trust the process, trust in the man upstairs and just continue to push forward.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.