Two football teammates brought closer through adversity

UNA wide receivers Dre Hall (left) and Eric Belew pose for a picture during a practice in preparation for their game against Mississippi College Sept. 12. The Lions will play their next game Sept. 26 against the Florida Institute of Technology at Braly Stadium.

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

When two teammates have great chemistry on the field, it increases the chances for a victory.

Two UNA wide receivers, senior Eric Belew and sophomore Dre Hall, were teammates at Columbia Central High School.

“I really like when I know someone across the field from me,” Hall said. “I can look across the field and see Eric out there with me. It feels like we are back in high school, and that’s really good.”

Hall, who is younger than Belew, signed with UNA in 2013. Hall reached out to Belew, who transferred to UNA from Tennessee Tech University the following spring semester.

“Dre was huge in getting me here,” Belew said. “Besides (quarterback) Jacob Tucker, Dre was the only person I knew here, and they were my two plugs to get involved and get my name in the coaches offices.”

UNA wide receiver coach Steadman Campbell, who recruited both players, said having Belew and Hall on the field at the same time makes a huge impact.

“You can tell that they have a certain instinct with each other,” Campbell said. “All of the wide outs and quarterbacks have become really close, but those two seem to really be on the same page.”

Both players said they have played sports together since youth league, which helped Belew’s and Hall’s families build a strong relationship.

Belew’s father coached both players throughout their high school football career, while Hall’s father coached them in Little League basketball.

“We’ve been a close-knit family for a while,” Belew said. “My dad and his dad are both characters and have always gotten along.”

Belew and Hall have a strong friendship, which has been made stronger by tragedy.

Belew’s and Hall’s high school teammate Dylan Rebeor died from terminal cancer Dec. 3, 2010. He died at 3 a.m. on the day of their state championship game.

“What he did for our team and our community was unreal,” Belew said. “He was granted (money) by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and instead of getting himself a truck or going on a big trip, he donated uniforms to our team. He wanted us to have good uniforms, and that was completely selfless.”

Hall said he recalls being more determined than ever the day of the state championship game, where Columbia Central beat Hendersonville 28-7.

“We were locked into that game,” Hall said. “We really thought Dylan was going to get to be there with us. To hear he passed away hurt us.”

ESPN reporter Tom Renaldi interviewed Belew and his father for the feature “Dylan’s Gift.” 2015 marks the fifth year Russell Athletics will present the “Fight Like Dylan” award.

“He is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever met,” Belew said. “He handled cancer the way a tough kid should. He may have passed away, but he beat cancer. I don’t care what anyone says.”

Both players said not only did the tragedy bring the team closer, but it also brought Belew and Hall closer.

“As a team, we were really close and culturally diverse,” Belew said. “Me and Dre got closer, but as a whole, we’re all brothers for life. We both know there are plenty of those guys we could call and they would come at the drop of a hat.”