Hall Always Seeking Extra Edge
July 28, 2017
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CHARLOTTESVILLE — A treasure trove for football players and coaches can be found in the McCue Center office of Luke Goldstein, the University of Virginia’s assistant athletics director for video services. Goldstein and assistant video coordinator James MacRae have access to game film of NFL teams and most college teams.
Goldstein has been at UVA since the summer of 2002, working primarily with football.
“Our job is to help the team,” he said, “and when players seek out the resources to get better, it fires us up in the video office.”
Over the years, Goldstein said, Chris Long, Clint Sintim, Jon Copper, Canaan Severin and Matt Johns are among the UVA players who have been regulars in his office, seeking extra game tape, and Hall is in that mold, too.
Hall popped into Goldstein’s office early this week to request videotape of NFL star Darrelle Revis.
“Every day I try and figure out different ways that I can enhance my technique, just finding new ways so I can learn, get better and grow,” Hall said. “So any way I can get better, I’m just looking for new ways [to improve].
“There should be no excuse for me. I just like going in there and trying to take bits and pieces of different guys that have had success at the cornerback position.”
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, he famously wrote that 10,000 hours “is the magic number of greatness,” and Hall has seen that figure quoted elsewhere.
“I remember when I was growing up, in high school, I watched an interview with [NBA star] Kyrie Irving, and he was talking about his philosophy,” Hall recalled. “His dad had instilled that in him, 10,000 hours, so every day he would get up real early in the morning, hit the gym, then go after school and hit the gym again, to try and get at least four hours of work in every day. So I’ve kind of adopted that philosophy, just trying to get extra work in, whether it’s in the film room, studying the playbook or just coming out and getting some extra reps.”
Hall, who’s from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, started seven games as a true freshman last season and intercepted two passes. He and fifth-year senior Tim Harris are Virginia’s projected starters at cornerback this fall.
Secondary coach Nick Howell ran the Wahoos’ defensive backs through a series of drills Friday morning in the George Welsh Indoor Practice Facility. In one drill, Howell was the quarterback, All-America safety Quin Blanding the receiver and Hall the defender.
Howell lofted a pass intended for Blanding, but it never reached its target. Hall, looking back as he ran step for step with Blanding, reached up and, using only his right hand, plucked the ball out of the air for an interception.
Not every young player can rise as quickly on the depth chart as Hall has, but his physical and mental attributes have accelerated his progress.
“He’s long enough, fast enough, has really good ball skills, and he’s really conscientious,” Mendenhall said.
“He’s so coachable, and so determined to become a great player, that his simple work ethic and diligence put him past other players of similar ability, because of trust on our part that he not only could do it, but he would do it. And those are sometimes two different things.”
Once he gets game film from video services, Hall can watch it on his iPad, on his phone, in Goldstein’s office, or in the secondary’s meeting room at the McCue Center. He’s studied such NFL cornerbacks as Jalen Ramsey, Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and Malcolm Butler, as well as college stars Ahkello Witherspoon (Colorado) and Marlon Humphrey (Alabama).
Humphrey, now a rookie with the Baltimore Ravens, is known for his physicality, “so I kind of take that physical aspect that he has and just try to apply it to my game,” Hall said.
Hall, who at 6-3, 200 pounds has excellent size for his position, remains something of a neophyte at his position. Not until his senior year at Bishop McDevitt did he play defense — Hall was a standout wide receiver — and even then “I would come in maybe on third down in passing situations and try and just guard a guy. I had no technique, really.”
At UVA, Hall was moved to cornerback last summer. “So he not only was learning college football,” Mendenhall said, “but he was learning a new position at the same time.”
Hall’s desire to learn extends beyond football. He plans to major in Youth and Social Innovations, a program offered in UVA’s Curry School of Education.
“My ultimate goal is, I want to be able to impact the lives of the youth in a positive way” he said, ” so I look forward to learning and being in that leadership role for youth. Hopefully I can be involved in youth programs. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of teacher and mentor I want to be, so I’m learning that each day as I go on.”
To say he was lightly recruited in high school would be an understatement. Hall’s other scholarship offers were from such schools as Coastal Carolina, Delaware State, Albany, Duquesne, New Hampshire and Delaware.
That meant nothing once Hall arrived in Charlottesville. Little more than four months after graduating from high school, he made his first college start, and his emergence was one of the best stories in a disappointing season for the `Hoos, who finished 2-10. Still, he’s taking nothing for granted this summer.
“I’ve still got to earn my spot,” Hall said. “There’s guys behind me competing. But I think that’s just a tribute to these coaches, how well they’ve prepared me.
“Obviously, I came in initially as a wide receiver. I think that helped me too, because I didn’t have a lot of bad habits coming in. So I did everything Coach Howell and Coach Mendenhall were saying and teaching me, and I just kind of worked at it and worked on it. I think that propelled me, just coupled with the great coaching staff we have and the great teachers we have.”