AUSTIN -- The bottom button on Kenneth Hall's navy blue knit polo is undone and the right collar is sticking out as he gets up from his table to greet another person inside the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History.
Hall -- more widely known as the "Sugar Land Express" or the "Sugar Land Dandy" -- is not only considered the greatest high school football player ever, but he was also the guest speaker at Friday's kickoff to the Texas High School Football: More Than the Game exhibit, which runs through Jan. 22, 2012.
The 75-year-old Fredericksburg resident doesn't notice his wardrobe mishap as he politely excuses himself from the table, but he doesn't get far.
During his four seasons as tailback for the Sugar Land High School Gators (1950-1953), Hall could get away from almost any defensive player he went up against, but this night is a different story. All it takes is the touch of a small hand on his right elbow to stop him.
It's a hand Hall has known almost his entire life. The hand of Gloria Hall, his high school sweetheart and wife of 56 years this December.
Without making a scene, the girl who turned down her husband's initial date proposal almost 60 years ago because she wouldn't "go with younger boys" casually reaches up to button the loose button, fix his collar and send him on his way before anyone notices.
"We've been together a long time and there's a reason for that," Ken Hall said.
Gloria Hall isn't shy about fixing her husband's miscues, whether it's the collar on his shirt or the specifics of one of his stories. Like reminding him there were actually 22 students in his 1954 graduating class, not 24, and 20 in her 1952 graduating class, not 16.
"He thinks he's right," Gloria Hall said smiling.
The smile doesn't fade from either of their faces as they both reminisce about their years in high school where Ken Hall set 17 national high school football records. Fifty-eight years later, he still holds records for most yards per attempt in a game (47.3), most points per game in a season (32.9) and career rushing yards (11,232)."I didn't ever want to play football. I played in the band and I thought I was too small for football," Ken Hall said. "I only kept playing to stay with my buddies."
The Albert and Ethel Herzstein Hall of Exhibitions at the Bullock Museum, across from the UT campus, typically holds 80 artifacts. Guest curator Joe Nick Patoski, Fort Worth Arlington Heights Class of 1969, threw that limit out the window when he turned his nearly 2 1/2-year obsession with the culture surrounding Texas high school football into 200 treasures of the past."If you want to understand Texas and Texans, go to a football game," Patoski said. "We didn't invent the game but we do own it and every aspect involved."Patoski even reached out to old classmates like Chuck Taylor, Class of 1970 and starting quarterback for the Yellow Jackets his junior and senior seasons. Taylor donated his quarterback wristband made from gauze and athletic tape and put it next to a Westlake High School wristband from 2010.
"I'm honored to be a part of it," Taylor said. "My only regret is not being able to go with him to all of these games and events the past couple years."
All but three of Ken Hall's records are just a memory.
"Obviously [the records] do mean a lot because it took 11 of us to make it happen," Ken Hall said.
The single-season touchdown record was the latest to fall. It happened last season when Aledo's Johnathan Gray scored 59 touchdowns to beat Ken's 57-year-old record of 57. Gray, a senior, has 7,003 career rushing yards, 4,229 away from Ken's career record.
"He put on a show in that state title game and he has the tools," Ken Hall said. "I always said if anyone ever breaks a record I'll call and congratulate him and I haven't done what I promised to do yet. The more I learn about him the more I really do want to call him because he seems like a fine young man."