by Hannah Gross
“I love watching movies and hearing really good stories,” says Virginia senior cornerback Bryce Hall. “I’ll watch anything where I can hear and pick apart stories. I like to tell them too, I work on storytelling sometimes with teammates, on whatever I’m going through in life. I learn how to tell stories from different angles.”

The fourth-year from Harrisburg, Pa., is in the middle of his own great story. After leading the nation with 22 pass breakups last year, the elite defender elected to return to Charlottesville for his final season of eligibility amid a lot NFL draft hype and speculation he was going to the pro ranks.

Instead, Hall returned to the collegiate football field, and the classroom, in pursuit of The Standard.

Following a conversation with fellow fourth year Joe Reed, the teammates approached Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall this summer about updating the team motto … “The New Standard”. To them, the expectation of excellence for UVA football was no longer new. Mendenhall agreed with his veteran leaders and the team now rallies around The Standard.

“The Standard is total effort,” Hall said. “That is going as hard as you can go in any given play, not just on the field but off the field. We have a saying that goes ‘Champions Do Extra.’ It is a bunch of core principles that play into what our program and culture is about. Total effort encompasses all of that.”

For Hall, setting an example of The Standard for the team means more than just talking about it. Internalizing the motto is fundamental for the team to reach its goals this season.

“I want us to win a championship this year,” Hall said. “ACC Champions is our goal. Why can’t we go even further than that? So that is why we have been rallying around this word believe. Just saying The Standard is not the same as actually believing it. The biggest thing for me is working on how I can help the team get there. That is what I see for us this year.”

 Helping the team reach its full potential means Hall is stepping up into a leadership role with added responsibility this season.

“I have been stretched and challenged in different areas,” Hall said. “It has been a process where it is so cool to know that it is not about just you. It is about how much you can transfer and help others. It is a new experience and there are a lot of challenges; learning how to communicate, being humble, not deflecting spotlight when things come my way, and the responsibility having more on your plate.”

Hall’s development as a leader will be critical for his future aspirations. While he is focused on cementing The Standard at Virginia, it won’t be long before it will be time for him to take his game to the next level.

“In the short-term future, Lord willing, I can see myself in the NFL making a huge impact being at the top of my position.” Hall said. “Long term, I see myself being someone that is a communicator, whether that be preaching or somebody that people feel speaks into their lives in a positive way. Through the game of football, I’m being prepared for that.”
Being a student-athlete at Virginia is quite the balancing act. Hall goes from morning practices to his Youth and Social Innovation courses in the Curry School of Education and Human Development. His decision to pursue this major is in large part due to a conversation with Mendenhall.
“I was riding home with coach one day and I was thinking about what to major in,” Hall said. “I didn’t really have a clear direction. I asked him what he studied, and he said education and I thought that is actually really cool and something that I would be interested in. So, I went to my academic advisor and told him that I want to educate and help people learn but not necessarily in the traditional classroom. He found a program that had just started, called Youth and Social Innovation, and I went to one of the Q&As for the major and felt it was the perfect fit.”
Throughout his college career at Virginia, Hall has found strength and purpose in his faith. He points to team chaplain George Morris and his local church, The Pointe, as sources of spiritual growth.
“My faith has helped me to really discover why I’m playing the game of football,” Hall said. “I believe that I am called to use this platform to reach and help others. It allows me to be faithful in little things; in leadership and understanding how to love people. When you’re on a football team there are people from all walks of life. Learning to connect with and love others has been so helpful. Through the lens of my faith, I can see people in a different light.
“It has also built my character. It helps me progress through difficult times. Even something as simple as having the word believe in our phrase for the year; I walk by faith and not by sight. So, things may not be going our way, or if we’re down in a game, I truly believe that we can accomplish the goals that we set. That is how I live my life.”
So what stories will Hall tell when he leaves behind his legacy in Charlottesville?
“There are so many,” Hall said. “From a football standpoint, how we started from 2-10 my first year to earning a bowl victory at South Carolina, remembering that awesome feeling. One of my favorite plays was when I summoned up the speed and ability to run down the guy from Miami, that was really cool, I have no idea where that came from. And just the people in this community. The people that I’ve met here in Charlottesville will be lasting relationships. I will also take with me hard times that I’ve gone through, some that Coach put me in, or just throughout the course of life, that have changed me and helped me get to where I am.”
As Hall elevates to the next level, he will surely reflect The Standard on the field and in the stories he will tell.