No matter how hard he kicked, pushed and pulled, Utah State running back Rashad Hall couldn’t break free and make his way down the field. Finally exhausted, he returned to the locker room to come to grips with his failure as he tried to catch his breath.
"I was worn out," he said. "I just had to be in there and inhale and exhale deeply."
Before USU fans get worried that one of their up-and-coming running backs might be too wimpy to handle defenders in the Mountain West Conference, relax.
If anything, feel confident that Hall just might have stumbled on a rather unconventional training technique that might prep him for the 2014 season.
Hall, 6-foot-1, 200-pound redshirt junior, recently acted as a guinea pig for a Utah State engineering project.
The students built what they called a "Personnel Vacuum Assisted Climber" (PVAC), which is designed for special operations force personnel to scale buildings or mountain faces.
Hall was one of the subjects used to try to break the suction created by the vacuum, which he was told could hold 3,000 pounds. He believed them after his attempt. Going up against great defenses is one challenge, this was on another level he said.
"I had all these ropes around my arms and legs and was running in place and couldn’t break through," he said. "I was using all my power and strength and it was impossible to break it. It was cool."
The invention was such a success that the group earned first place in a national competition and caught the attention of the National Geographic Channel. Hall’s testing session, as well as that of world champion rock climber Tori Allen, will be featured on the channel’s show "Showdown of the Unbeatables," scheduled to air Friday at 7 p.m. MDT.
Even though he was unsuccessful, Hall said he was eager to see the episode.
"I haven’t been on TV before, so I’m excited," he said. "When they said they wanted a football player to do it and coach [Matt] Wells picked me, I was honored to do it."
Hall hopes this won’t be the only chance he gets for some TV time.
The North Carolina native redshirted last year after transferring from Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif., where he rushed for 1,402 yards and 16 touchdowns and averaged 127.5 yards a game.
Despite losing all-league running back Joey DeMartino and backup Robert Marshall to graduation, the Aggies still have a full stable of backs including senior Joe Hill, junior Kelvin Lee and sophomore Kennedy Williams at their disposal in 2014.
However, Hall believes he can work his way up the depth chart if he works hard in the summer.
"I know I need to get stronger and get better at all the fundamental things," he said. "I went over everything I need to do this summer with my position coach, so I know what I need to do."
The Aggies’ offense might be best known for the dynamic play of quarterback Chuckie Keeton, but the running game has been the steady producer, with the Aggies touting seven 100-yard rushers in 2013 as the run game averaged 178.1 yards a game. Overall, the Aggies have won 15 straight games when they have had a 100-yard rusher, with the last loss coming against Ohio in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Keeton should be back from his knee injury suffered last year, but Hall knows the running backs will still have to carry their share of the load.
"[Keeton] is going to open up things for the running game," Hall said. "He is a dual-threat quarterback and we know teams are going to key on him, so that should open up the run game."
When his chance comes, unlike in his most recent experience, Hall doesn’t plan on being held back.
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