Although injuries bookended his senior year in Evanston, linebacker Nate Hall is on his way to the NFL, signing with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. He will join Kyle Queiro, his teammate for three years, in the Dallas linebacking corps.
Hall was a mainstay in the middle of Pat Fitzgerald’s defense for the final three years of NU career. The Toledo, Ohio, native played in just four games his redshirt freshman year but in his next three years appeared in 35 games and started 29 of them. He racked up 259 total tackles, 15 passes defended, five sacks, five interceptions and two fumbles recovered, per NUSports.com. He twice earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.
Hall had shoulder surgery this offseason and did not participate in any on-field drills or evaluations at the NFL Combine. He did, however, interview with teams there.
NFL draft evaluators graded Hall a 4.90, which falls in the range of “should be in an NFL training camp,” but below a 5, which projects about a 50-50 chance for a player to make a roster, per NFL.com.
NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein was not bullish on Hall’s prospects, saying Hall lacks the body type and athleticism needed to play SAM linebacker in the NFL, while Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller praised Hall’s ability in coverage and instincts. Miller even drew a comparison between Hall and Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Hall’s brother, Jimmy, played safety at Northwestern and signed with the Oakland Raiders as an UDFA in 2015.
Aside from some teams’ concerns about Hall’s physical attributes, there are questions about his health after recovering from both a torn ACL and shoulder surgery within the last year and a half.
The linebacker was a trusted leader for Fitz who, like quarterback Clayton Thorson, made an inspiring comeback from a torn ACL in the Music City Bowl to play in the Wildcats’ 2018 season opener versus Purdue. He even recorded an interception while making 10 tackles in his return.
Two of Hall’s other notable games included a 3OT win over Michigan State in 2017 when he made the game-clinching interception after injuring his hand earlier in the game, and a win over Minnesota last year during which he made two interceptions.
Queiro made the practice squad in Dallas last season after being picked up as a free agent. Hall’s path to the roster almost certainly consists of contributing on special teams and proving that his burst is all the way back.