One of the first Falcons, Crescenta Valley alum Mike Hull achieved success on the football field, and he’s been doing just fine in other areas of his life off of it.
There was no trace of negativity or frustration in his voice over the phone, nor was there any in his email correspondence. That’s not how Mike Hull lives.
You could look at his life resume and ask why there would be any negativity or frustration – and it might be a fair question. He was, after all, a successful running back in high school and college. He then went on to play in the NFL, and in his post-playing days he’s a vice president and general counsel for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Hull’s always been the little guy trying to make it, or at least hang on. Though he stands at 6’3”, he wasn’t blessed with the physical skills of Mike Garrett or Gale Sayers, two football legends he played with in his career. Hull, who was part of the first graduating class at CVHS in 1963, has had to stay focused, humble and hungry. To him, that’s the Falcon way.
“I never went into anything with a big head. Still to this day I don’t,” he said.
It’s that mindset that has carried Hull, who lives with his wife Connie in Mission Viejo, to success in his law career. Hull just doesn’t stop working, and he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“Thank God I’m not retired,” he said. “I have things to pay for and I need to help keep the family going and keep myself going. It gives me a sense of great value.”
Legendary USC football coach John McKay saw great value in Hull when he was in high school. McKay came out to recruit a Crescenta Valley-Glendale game and saw Hull, who played running back, have one of the toughest nights of his career. As Hull put it, he was “getting killed” by the Glendale squad.
McKay left the game impressed. “I wanted to see who you were. I cannot believe you kept getting up,” he told Hull afterward.
Hull earned First Team All-League honors as a senior when he amassed over 1,000 total offensive yards. Hull threw the ball a little, but CV’s single wing formation was built mainly for the ground game. The Falcons finished 5-3 that year, an improvement over their 2-5-1 tally a season before.
Despite being recruited by UCLA, USC and other West Coast schools, Hull went on to Glendale College after high school, where he picked up All-Conference honors playing in the Vaquero’s T-Formation. After Glendale, he finally met up with McKay when he transferred to USC.
To take the punishment of Division I football and keep going, Hull knew he had to gain weight.
“I ate cheeseburgers and steak for breakfast,” he said.
At USC, he switched to being a full-time fullback. He wasn’t exactly the star player, as he spent much of his Trojan career blocking for Heisman trophy winners Mike Garrett and OJ Simpson.
“I didn’t start all the time at USC,” Hull said. “I was fighting for my life. I gave everything I had.”
That fight paid off as he eventually became the starting fullback. In his junior season he led the team in rushing with a 6.7 yards per carry, and helped the team win the 1967 National Championship.
Hull then became a first-round draft choice for the Chicago Bears. His NFL career spanned from 1968 to 1974, and he also played for the Washington Redskins. He played in a Super Bowl for Washington as a special teams leader, but it was in Chicago where he got to hit Dick Butkus in practice, and be the lead blocker for Gale Sayers.
Hull went to law school in Georgetown after his playing days ended, and now he’s enjoying the returns of his hard work in areas outside of football.
“You’ve got to love doing what you’re doing, and then maybe you’ll be rewarded,” he said. “Now, I do feel blessed and [feel] that I’m being rewarded.”
He doesn’t live lavishly; just check his car, a 1990 Mercedes with over 240,000 miles on the odometer.
“But that baby runs,” he said.
Hull and his wife Connie have a daughter Michelle, who graduated from Harvard and is at Columbia Law School. Their son Thomas also graduated from Harvard and was a punter on the football team. He is currently in medical school. Hull also has a son from a previous marriage, Ernie, who is raising two boys of his own.
It’s been a long time, but Hull fondly remembers his days as a Falcon. His favorite memory was beating Hoover, then a powerhouse team, in 1961. Hull had 191 yards rushing on 30 carries.
“Who was I? I was a nobody,” Hull said. “I was a skinny little thing that didn’t know what I was doing and here I am carrying the ball 30-some odd times.”
The Falcons weren’t great in those days, the program having just been born, but those teams were led by Geoff Beckenhauer, who played linebacker and running back.
“He led the way. He was the man. He was probably the best player on our high school team,” Hull said.
The first athletic competition Hull ever won was at a Junior Olympics track meet held at Clark Middle School when he was 15. Up until that day, he was considered too skinny and too uncoordinated to become a successful athlete. Thanks to a fighting spirit and lots of perseverance, those days are a distant memory.
“I’m very grateful to God and I’ve been blessed with that gift of endurance,” he said.