PITTSBURGH — When you think of “Pops” in Pittsburgh sports lore, the image that comes to mind is probably of former Pirates great Willie Stargell.
Stargell gained the nickname later in his playing career, as he became something of a father figure to the team while playing into his late 30s.
Well, there’s a new “Pops” in Pittsburgh, and though he’s one of the 19 seniors on Pitt’s 2018 squad, at 21 years old, Pitt running back Darrin Hall is far from an old man.
Instead, he’s earned the nickname by becoming an actual father before the start of his senior season. Hall and his girlfriend, Ebony Davis, welcomed daughter Elliona Lynn Hall into the world two weeks ago.
After Hall took a few days off from practice to be with his new family, the “Pops” nickname greeted him upon his returned to Pitt’s practice.
“They check on me every day,” Hall said with a smile. “They ask how she’s doing. A couple guys came up to my apartment the other day and got to meet her for the first time, so I guess that name is sticking.”
But that hasn’t been the only change. There’s a newfound seriousness to the usually quiet running back. If anything, he seems even more determined to make his mark in his final season at Pitt, while at the same time being the best father he can be.
“I’m doing the best I can to make sure I’m helping [Davis] out,” he said. “She’s not doing this alone. … I go to practice, I go to class and then I’m there. There’s no breaks. I’ve just got to suck it up and do it. It’s the right thing to do.”
Hall seems keenly aware of how fatherhood as already changed him.
“It humbled me,” he said. “I value time a lot more. I’m not out here wasting time. If I’m not with [Elliona], I’m missing hours here not being with her. I’ve just got to make it count. I can’t take plays off. I can’t take days off, because ultimately, what I’m doing here is for her.”
Hall is ready to put that new focus into play this week, as the Panthers prepare to host Albany in the season opener on Saturday.
“We can’t take anyone lightly,” he said. “We’ve got to come out like we’re playing Penn State, like we’re playing a Power Five team.”