For much of his life, Naijiel Hale has been known as his father’s son. As the son of the late Nate Dogg (Nathaniel Hale), an iconic rapper/singer in the west coast hip hop scene, there is plenty to be proud of in that title. But it won’t be long before Hale is known completely on his own merits as one of the top defensive back prospects in the class of 2014.
Naijiel Hale is part of a loaded secondary in 2013 for St. John Bosco.
Last week at the prestigious JuniorRank Proving Grounds Combine, Hale was the best defensive player in attendance and looked like one of the top cornerbacks on the west coast. He’s looked like that kind of player on Friday nights as well over the last two seasons.
As a sophomore at Lakewood (Calif.) High School, Hale had seven interceptions to his credit. As a junior he transferred to Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco and added four more interceptions, taking three back for touchdowns.
Every big stage that Hale has hit, he’s dominated it. And he’s been hitting big stages since his younger years – literally.
“My dad used to bring me out on the stage and things like that,” Hale said. “At first it was crazy and then I started getting used to it and liking it. I remember the first time, I was like 12 and I didn’t know what to do.”
With that kind of upbringing, the crowds and atmospheres of big games has never bothered Hale but the physicality of the game of football took some getting used to and it was another iconic rapper that helped ease that adjustment.
“At first, I was a basketball player and then at about 12, Snoop (Dogg) had talked to my dad and said he wanted me to play football,” said the junior. “He basically made me who I am today. I was actually scared of contact and that’s why I never wanted to play.”
Snoop Dogg has maintained a steady presence in youth league football in California and with Hale’s addition to his Rolling Heights Raiders 4th Grade team, the rapper may have launched a football career.
Though Hale initially struggled with the physical nature of the sport, he soon learned that he liked the contact and even found it therapeutic.
“I had kind of an anger problem,” he said of his early years. “The coaches told me that they used to get me mad and I’d take my anger out on the field. That’s how I do it now. I still take my anger out on the field.”
Hale and his brother used to spend lots of time at their father’s house when they were younger and he’s proud of who his father is and where he comes from. Hale even pays tribute to his father with his twitter handle of @YoungNateDogg. But he also wants to pave his own path.
“I know a lot of rappers,” he said. “But I’m not really into that staff. They’re good people to look up to but in reality, they’re not. That’s what my dad led me to think so that’s all I really want do is make my own name.
“Who wants to live off of their parents? That’s probably about 90 percent of my motivation is letting people know who I am in a different way.”
Though he’s still waiting on his first offer, the 5-11, 175-pounder has already drawn plenty of interest, most actively from Oregon.
“I actually got an email from Coach (John) Neal of Oregon [on Tuesday],” he said. “They were really interested in me and he was going to take a trip here in a couple of weeks and keep in touch. Oregon is my top school and that’s been my dream school and they know that.”
Hale is good friends with current Ducks standout and another of Snoop Dogg’s youth league products DeAnthony Thomas. That presence in Eugene along with what he already knew has placed Oregon high on his list.
“Just growing up, the uniforms got me and then after the uniforms I really looked into it and thought, ‘man, this would be heaven.’ Then after talking to DeAnthony, it’s just like ‘whoa’.”
In addition to Oregon, Hale has been getting significant interest from UCLA and Northwestern in the early going but his interest and offer list is likely to grow quickly this spring.