(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
When Max Hall stepped onto the campus of BYU as a transfer in 2006, he became the youngest in a line of great Cougar quarterbacks, including, Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer and Super Bowl champions Steve Young and Jim McMahon.
As the 6-foot-1, 201-pound Hall embarks on his senior season three years later, his competitive and hard-working nature has him eager for team success.
A native of Mesa, Ariz., Hall has always been known as a competitive person and starting at a young age he has always wanted to win—everything. His desire to be the absolute best has spilled over to all areas of his life—football, marriage, friendships and character.
Becoming the Best Husband
In December 2006 Hall made what he calls “the decision I’m most proud of.” He married his wife, the former Mckinzi Gissel, at the Mesa Arizona Temple.
“That was a big step for me,” says Hall. “To go through that process and receive those blessings was the best thing that has happened in my life for sure.”
As the couple approaches their third anniversary and are expecting their first child, Hall recognizes the lessons Mckinzi has taught him and how much he has grown since they’ve been together.
“Believe it or not, before I got married I was kind of a hot-head,” explains Hall. “My wife has taught me responsibility and how to control my emotions a little better, to let things go and to realize what’s most important in life. All around I just enjoy life more. We have a lot of fun together and enjoy a lot of special moments with each other.”
One particular learning experience for Hall occurred while he and his wife were driving. After a car cut him off, Max let his temper get the best of him—honking and yelling at his offender.
“Mckinzi said to me, ‘Babe, it’s not that big of a deal, number one. Number two, what if that guy recognizes you and knows who you are,’” Hall remembers. “I realized she was right and I’ve been a lot better since. That fire still comes out of me on the football field, which is why I think I love football so much, but in everyday life I’m a much more calm guy than I used to be.”
While Hall says there’s a thing or two he’s taught his wife in return, he is the first to acknowledge the improvements he’s seen in his own life because of the example set by Mckinzi and knows that with time he will continue to grow as a husband.
Becoming the Best Son
A love for athletics and competition was instilled in Hall from a young age. As a young boy growing up he was surrounded by the game of football, with his uncle, Danny White (ASU 1971-73), and grandfather, Wilford White (ASU 1947-50), both having been inducted into the Arizona State Hall of Fame. Hall’s competitive drive pushed him to be the best on the field and as a result he saw a lot of success, whether it be in football or any other sport. Despite his many athletic achievements, he knows his parents, Mike and Cristall, have more to be proud of.
“I think my parents were really proud the first time I passed the sacrament,” he recalls. “I remember the expressions on their faces and how proud of me they were afterwards, being a priesthood holder and taking on that responsibility.”
Another proud moment came when Hall was in high school and had the opportunity to baptize his younger brother.
“That was a great moment for me and a proud moment for my parents,” says Hall. “Not only was their son getting baptized, but their other son was worthy to baptize him.”
In the few years since he returned from his LDS mission to Des Moines, Iowa and transferred to BYU from Arizona State, Hall’s parents have noticed a significant change in their son—for the better. During a visit this past August, Mike Hall took his son golfing, allowing them to spend some time together before the start of fall camp.
“We were talking and he said, ‘Max you have no idea how much BYU has blessed your life and how much you’ve changed since the time you got home off your mission to now,’” recounts Hall. “He said, ‘These three years that you’ve had at BYU to grow and mature, speak at different functions and represent the University and the Church have done a lot of good things for you. You’re almost a different person.’”
Becoming the Best Teammate
On the field Hall has resumed his roles as a team captain and vocal leader, both of which he has learned to appreciate.
“I finally realized over the last year that it’s not about me or one person. It’s about this team,” says Hall. “As the leader of the team I’ve really had to focus on not being so selfish and figuring out what’s best for the team as a whole.
While Hall’s competitive nature pushes him to do his best, it also has a similar affect on those around him, including his teammates.
“Max is a competitive guy who we look at to lead our offense and be a motivating factor,” says teammate and All-American tight end Dennis Pitta. “He’s a guy we trust 100-percent to make plays. Last season after we lost those last two games, a lot of the blame fell on Max’s shoulders, which wasn’t right. But he used that as motivation and worked really hard during the offseason and is now ready to lead us into this next season.”
While Hall’s wife reminds him of the ever-watchful eyes of young fans and admirers, he’s also aware of the example he must set for the younger players on the team. He knows that in order to earn his teammates’ respect, he must act in a way that warrants it.
“Those younger guys are watching every single move I make and every single thing I do and say,” he says. “If you have that thought in the back of your head all the time it affects what you say and do. You have to find a balance of having fun and joking around and also standing up, representing and doing the right things that you’re supposed to do and be consistent at it. That’s the biggest thing, to be consistent at it so I’m not a hypocrite, saying one thing and doing another.”
Becoming the Best Quarterback
Known as the “Quarterback Factory,” BYU has produced an assembly line of outstanding quarterbacks who have seen tremendous success at both the collegiate and professional levels. For some, the pressure to become another accomplished BYU quarterback might be too much to handle, but Hall is no stranger to high expectations. Following in the footsteps of John Beck while in high school and again at BYU, Hall has proven again and again he is up to the challenge.
“John Beck is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Hall says. “From him and others I’ve learned that it’s watching film everyday, working out everyday, working on certain situations everyday, talking with your receivers and offensive line and making sure everyone is on the same page. Every single day you have to do something to make yourself better, knowing there are 120 other guys on your football team trying to get better as well.”
BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman knows a thing or two about the pressures put on play callers in Provo, leading the Cougars to a 12-2 record as a senior in 2001.
“Coach Doman always tells us, ‘Preparations meets opportunity, equals success,’” says Hall. “If you’re prepared and the situation arises, you’ll be successful. Having said that, every single day before practice and after practice I’m watching film and picking up on something I could be doing differently.”
One thing he has started doing differently is memorizing the entire script before each week’s game. As offensive coordinator Robert Anae calls a play during a game, Hall doesn’t have to look down at his wristband, he already knows what to do.
“Doing little things like that helps,” he says. “I’ve really tried to improve on memorizing what coverages opponents like to run in certain formations. Through the week I get better and better so by the time Saturday comes around, I’m the best prepared I can possibly be.”
Of all the people who have had a guiding influence on Hall and his hard work ethic, he pinpoints several who he has tried to model himself after, including Tom Brady, who Hall calls a technician and master of the game. He also credits his father for teaching him by example what it means to work hard.
Becoming the Best Person
While he may only have one more season at BYU to fulfill his football expectations, Hall has many, many more years to become the person he wants to be, and he looks forward to the challenge.
“My whole life, most of my competitiveness has been geared toward athletics, so when it’s all done and football’s over, I think the competitiveness will turn into something where I can take not only me, but my family, and make them the best they can be,” he explains. “Hopefully in the grand scheme of things that means to return back to heaven and live for eternity with my family. Hopefully I’ll get a job and do the best I can, while also raising my family and teaching them the best I can what I’ve learned in my life.”
HALL UNBEATEN IN LAVELL EDWARDS STADIUM
The 2009 season will present numerous obstacles for the BYU football team, including a tough schedule that includes four teams ranked in the preseason Top-25 polls. Three of those teams, Florida State, TCU and Utah, will pay trips to LaVell Edwards Stadium, where the Cougars have remained undefeated each of the past three seasons—a program record.
While some may feel overwhelming pressure in a situation like that, Max Hall is optimistic about his and the team’s chances for success.
“I have big expectations for my senior season,” he says. “That’s just how I am and how it is around here in Provo. I want us to do well on the field, execute, win some big games this year and do it in the right way. My whole life I’ve had high expectations for myself and I always try to be the best I can be. This year is no different.”
Some of those high expectations Hall has are to clam BYU’s third Mountain West Conference title in the last four years and remain undefeated at home. Whether the
goals are reached or not, Hall’s career as a Cougar will be over in a year and he hopes that once he walks away from BYU football he’ll be remembered as someone who had a positive impact on those around him.
“I want the guys that I play with to remember me as someone who elevated everyone’s game,” he says. “When they were on the field and I was one the field with them I hope they remember that they wanted to play harder and work harder and were more excited to play. I want to be remembered as a motivator and someone who had the ability to win games.
For the record, Hall has tallied victories over Arizona, Air Force Academy, Eastern Washington, Colorado State, TCU, Utah, Northern Iowa, UCLA, Wyoming, New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State thus far in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
BYU Coach Bronco Mendenhall has strung together an impressive record also at LaVell Edwards Stadium with a n 18-0 record the past three seasons and a 21-3 mark since becoming head coach in 2005.