Bryce Hall: Boy-next-door on his way to the NFL

Bryce HallUVA senior cornerback Bryce Hall may be the most unassuming All-American football player you will ever meet.

Dressed up for his day at the ACC Kickoff this week, he appears more as though as the choir boy at the local corner church. In casual attire, the night before at a tailgate party event in Charlotte, the look is more like the boy-next-door.

However he may be perceived, expectation for his play in 2019 are soaring.

So, how high should the expectations be for the 6’1” senior cornerback from Harrisburg, Pa. be? Considering preseason accolades have him as first-team All-CC, and an All-American by nearly a dozen college football publications, he’s not sneaking up on anyone or any team this season.

But ask Hall about those honors and he almost scoffs.

“I don’t think too much about what others write or say about my play. I’m focused more about improving every day and moving forward,” noted Hall.

Not surprising – especially if you know a bit about Virginia’s star cornerback. He wasn’t a highly-rated prospect as a senior at Bishop McDevitt High School. Two stars. Two-star prospects rarely even get noticed by Power 5 schools, and if they do, it’s usually as more of a stop-gap measure. You have to have plenty of practice players around.

Baseball Hall-of Famer Cal Ripken was once asked why there was nearly 40 rounds of the major league baseball draft. His answer: “You have to enough guys for the stars to play catch with.” You get the idea.

After arriving in Charlottesville at the beginning of the Bronco Mendenhall era in 2016, Hall has been an instrumental component of the Virginia football rebuild.

A recruit of former Virginia head coach Mike London, Hall has made his meteoric rise on the gridiron – on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Hall played wide receiver and defensive back at Bishop McDevitt, but it was the offensive side of football where he did most of his best work, scoring 16 touchdowns, 15 of which were receiving scores.

Despite those statistics, he was not rated highly by any of the major recruiting services. With just six Division 1 offers, Hall chose the Cavaliers in the spring of 2016, and hasn’t looked in the rear-view mirror since.

After two years of decent performances, 2018 was the turning point of his career. Hall’s 2018 season will go down as one of the best defensive seasons in Cavalier history, leading the country in pass breakups (22) and tied for tops in the land with 24 passes defended.

Who among us will ever forget the night that Hall made a touchdown-saving, game-saving tackle on Miami’s speedster Travis Homer, running down Homer from the opposite side of the field and making the tackle at the Virginia 15 yard line?

Miami was held to a field goal instead of the apparent touchdown, and Virginia upset the No. 16 Hurricanes 16-13 in Scott stadium.

I talked with Hall about that particular play in between cornhole games at the ACC Kickoff cookout Wednesday evening. The soft-spoken Hall conceded that he actually didn’t think he was going to be able to track down Homer.

“I just put my head down and had my arms in place and ran as hard as I could.”

“Did you believe you could catch him?“ I asked.

Humbly, Hall simply replied. “No.”

When asked about the contributions of UVA Director of Athletics Carla Williams specific to the football program, Hall was all smiles.

“She’s (Williams) been so supportive, the additional trainers, strength and condition personnel effect can easily be seen. I know it’s made me a better player,” boasted Hall.

After completing such an outstanding 2018 season, many NFL evaluators began the discussion of Hall leaving school early and entering the NFL draft.  After all, his draft-stock was red hot. So, why forgo the draft and the money and return to Virginia for his senior season?

“I started getting a lot of opportunities,” Hall said. “Plenty of things were considered before I ultimately decided to come back for my season year, like goals I wanted to accomplish before I left.

“Goals like learning to deal with the spotlight, the pressure, learning to be a better leader-on and off the field, and living up to even higher expectations,” confessed Hall.

Doesn’t sound like a high-profile, talented college football superstar, sounds more like a choir-boy to me.

Choir-boy, boy-next-door, college football All-American, whatever the look may be, it’s looking like 2019 is shaping up to be a special season for Bryce Hall and the Cavaliers.

Story by Scott German


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