BYU’s winningest quarterback in school history, Max Hall, returned to BYU as an assistant coach three years after his career at BYU ended.
He left a legacy of fierce competition with a record of 32–7 as the starting quarterback and now looks to transfer his experience and fire to the current BYU quarterbacks and players whom he helps coach.
Of those players he’s coaching now, he knows some of them particularly well, as they were former teammates during Hall’s BYU playing days spanning 2006–2009, including his 2006 year on the scout team.
“Max is a fun dude to be around. He was always fun to play with,” BYU runningback Iona Pritchard, teammate with Hall as a freshman, said with a laugh. “I don’t think he’s changed much. He might be a little more reserved now since he’s a coach, but he’s still competitive.”
Pritchard shared a classic story of Hall from practice that shed some serious light on to just how competitive and intense Hall could be as a player.
“I remember in practice a fight broke out between a linebacker and Dennis Pitta, a tight end, and Max (Hall) wasn’t even part of the fight,” Pritchard said. “But Max just ran over there, stuck his nose in there, was calling people out, calling linebackers out. That’s the kind of competitive spirit that Max has. He’s just a competitive guy and he always brings that to the table.”
It is this fighting spirit that endeared Hall to many BYU fans. During his three years at BYU, he was confident and relentless to pull out wins many BYU fans still remember today.
“The Oklahoma win was great; the Utah game my senior year was phenomenal,” Hall said, reflecting on some of the defining moments of his playing days. “The Utah game my sophomore year with the fourth-and-18 play, the UCLA game where I threw seven touchdowns. This one might be an unpopular one, but the Colorado State game my junior year when it was a battle to the end and we had a couple last-minute drives to go down and win it. We ended up doing it. Dennis (Pitta) caught a touchdown pass in the end zone and his helmet was popping off. But the bottom line has to be the teammates and everyone involved in the staff. It’s just a lot of fun.”
Hall’s achievements at BYU place him near the top among the BYU quarterback greats in the major statistical passing categories.
He is the all-time leader in touchdown passes for a game (seven), second in touchdown passes for a career (94), second in career completion percentage (65.3), second in carer pass completions (903), second in passing yards (11,365) and second in total offense (11,569).
Many of the top spots on the career records lists are held by college football Hall of Famer Ty Detmer, who played during the LaVell Edwards era when the BYU offense was passing dominant. BYU did not have a 1,000 yard rusher from 1972 (the year Edwards came to BYU) until Jamal Willis in 1994, whereas there have been six 1,000 yard rushers since 2001.
As Hall was wrapping up his career as a senior at BYU, NFL scouts took notice of his play and the possibilities of Hall going to the NFL increased.
“My whole life the goal was always to play college football,” Hall said. “When I saw there was an opportunity to play pro, it wasn’t something I necessarily dreamed of my whole life, but when the opportunity came and I saw I was getting some exposure, it was more like, ‘If it happens, then great.'”
The seven rounds of the NFL draft came and went without Hall hearing his name selected, but immediately after the draft the phone rang and on the other end of the line was the Arizona Cardinals, the NFL team from his hometown area.
“The Arizona Cardinals called me and said, ‘Hey we want you, let’s go,’ and we made the deal just like that,” Hall said. “With them being in my hometown, it seemed like a good fit.”
Hall put his fierce competitiveness on display once again and defied the odds as he not only made the final 52-man roster, but went on to start three games his rookie year and defeated defending Super Bowl champions the New Orleans Saints in his debut as the starting quarterback.
Injuries plagued Hall, however, who dislocated his shoulder at the end of his rookie year and then dislocated it again at the end of fall camp his second year.
Early in the 2012 college football season, Hall was approached by BYU football Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall about the possibility of coming back to BYU to help out coaching the quarterbacks.
“Max was a great leader for our program as a player, had a nice NFL opportunity and showed great leadership there,” Mendenhall said about the decision to bring Hall back to BYU. “He was passionate to come back and I thought he could help us. It was an easy call for me and I think easy for him as well.”
Hall at the time was still working out to play a third season in the NFL, but said Mendenhall gave him the flexibility to be able to leave coaching to go and play if that is what Hall wanted.
Hall stayed to coach, however, and says he does not regret it at all.
He loves the atmosphere at BYU and being around a program that strives to do things for the right reasons. He said it was that same reason that brought him to BYU initially after his mission instead of returning to Arizona State where he redshirted his freshman year.
BYU senior quarterback Riley Nelson, who was Hall’s backup during Hall’s senior year, also said he is glad to have Hall back again.
“He has been a big help and asset for me,” Nelson said. “He takes a lot more cerebral approach where I take an ‘I want to be out on the field’ approach. And his love for drawing up plays has rubbed off on me, gotten me more excited about that aspect of the game.”
Like Pritchard, Nelson also commented that Hall hasn’t changed much from his playing days here in Provo and is still as competitive as ever.
“He is still the same old guy, but he looks more tired now because he doesn’t get as much sleep with two little toddlers,” Nelson joked. “I can kind of see the bags underneath his eyes now, but other than that he is still the same old Max.”
After transferring to BYU, Hall won a quarterback battle to fill John Beck’s vacancy as a sophomore, then succeeded in starting as an NFL quarterback in his first year despite going undrafted and has been successful in his first year back at BYU, helping inspire and improve the quarterbacks.
“He has been really helpful to not only myself but to Coach (Brandon) Doman and all the quarterbacks,” Mendenhall said.
Hall has enjoyed his first season back at BYU and said he is not quite sure yet what his future has in store for him.
“First, I want to finish my degree (in facilities and property management),” Hall said. “I’ll be done with my degree in the spring and at that point if I can find a coaching job somewhere, I’ll go coach. Or if I need to go find a job somewhere with my degree I’ll go do that. Then there’s still a small chance that I go back to play (in the NFL). I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I am leaving my options open.”