About 6.9 percent of high school football players and 7.1 percent of high school baseball players go on to play in the NCAA, according to the organization. BYU freshman Jaren Hall, however, currently has the rare and unique opportunity to play both sports for the Cougars.
“I feel like playing two sports all year round helps me to compete every day,” Hall said. “It’s a different opportunity to get better and push myself. There are definitely some challenges, especially with time — trying to handle everything between sports, school and not having a social life, which I fully accept, but all-in-all I really enjoy the challenges.”
Other notable baseball-football special teamers in BYU history include legendary quarterback and Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon, and more recently, Hall’s current teammate and tight end Matt Bushman.
In the fall, Hall finished the season second on the quarterback depth chart behind fellow freshman Zach Wilson, seeing the field for a few gadget plays as the first African-American to take a snap at quarterback for the Cougars. Currently, Hall is trying to find his place within the baseball program and “knock the rust off.”
“He’s got raw talent, but he hasn’t played baseball for three years, so his role on our team is a backup outfielder or pinch runner,” head baseball coach Mike Littlewood said. “Down the road I think he could have the potential to be a starter for us, I’m excited to see what he can do once he just plays more baseball.”
Hall, whose father Kalin played running back for the Cougars from 1992-93, passed for over 5,000 yards with 52 touchdowns in three years at Maple Mountain High School and was twice named first team all-region. In baseball, Hall was twice named first team all-state with a combined 19 extra base hits, 54 runs batted in and 29 stolen bases in his junior and senior seasons.
“Football is a really hands-on sport and very physical,” Hall said. “But baseball is more of a mental sport, where it’s you against the pitcher or you against the fly ball. You really have to stay calm and relax, which I try to take with me into football.”
Despite not having played baseball since spring 2016 and taking two years off from both sports to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Roseville, California, Hall’s athleticism and contributions to the team have already impressed Littlewood.
“He’s such a great athlete that after not playing baseball for three years he can just step in at this level and help us,” Littlewood said. “He’s got great hand-eye coordination and great bat speed, but right now he wants to pull the ball a little too much so we’re trying to work on some of those things. I love his athleticism and love what he brings to our team off the field.”
With football spring camp beginning March 4 and the annual spring scrimmage scheduled for March 28, Hall will spend most of the month juggling both sports but with football as his main focus.
“It’s pretty uncommon to be skilled enough to (play both sports), and I figured if he’s good enough to do it then why would we prevent that?” BYU quarterback coach Aaron Roderick said. “My only request of him was that if he wants to be a quarterback here he has to make that his priority and work baseball around that.”
Hall and the rest of BYU’s quarterback corps will see plenty of reps in spring camp with Wilson sidelined following shoulder surgery. Roderick is looking forward to seeing what Hall, Wilson’s primary backup, can accomplish with more responsibilities and attention.
“(Hall) wasn’t with us last spring and didn’t have the chance to get many reps in the fall, but every time he got a chance to play he did something good,” Roderick said. “It was really exciting to see how much he did with so few opportunities. He’s going to get a lot of reps this spring so he’ll have the chance to get better.”
Despite the differences in each sport, Hall noted plenty of similarities in either clubhouse with his teammates.
“It’s really the same (between baseball and football teammates). It’s a bunch of guys who love each other and love being around each other,” Hall said. “The football locker room just has more guys in it.”
With a hectic spring ahead between the two programs, Hall remains focused on getting better and maintaining a team-first attitude.
“It takes some time just knocking the rust off, I’ve been playing baseball my whole life but when you take three years off of any sport you’re obviously going to lose some abilities,” Hall said. “I want to find my place in the program and do what I can as a freshman to help us win games.”