Bryce Hall: The foundation of the rebirth of UVA Football
Think about that. You never hear about two-stars. May not have been aware that rating services even bother to track guys who would get a two-star rating.
Hall’s other college offers: Albany, Coastal Carolina, Delaware State, Duquesne, New Hampshire.
He was rated the 54th-best player in the state of Pennsylvania in the Class of 2016.
Was the 202nd-best cornerback in 2016.
Square that with the talk late last fall about how if Hall were to decide to forego his senior season at UVA, he would likely go in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
That all happened in three years.
He had personal reasons to want to be around for a fourth year at UVA.
“Looking back on it, it was all part of God’s plan. How I ended up here is, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be,” Hall said.
Hall was a star wide receiver in high school, catching 54 balls for 1,108 yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior in 2015.
His experience on the defensive side of the ball was limited, mostly at safety, but it was made clear to him as he began making the transition to college that he would be used on defense.
“When I first got here, I didn’t want to start or play, because I didn’t feel like I was ready,” Hall said. “I had never played DB, so I just worked, and focused on just knowing what I could know, and working and developing my craft to be ready one day. And then, due to injuries, I got a shot.”
Hall played in 12 games as a freshman in 2016, coach Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at Virginia.
You remember that one: the opening blowout loss to Richmond, an FCS team, the 2-10 finish.
“I had to grow up a lot, coming in as an 18-year-old kid who didn’t really know what he was doing, as far as the direction he wanted to go in as a person, what I wanted to accomplish,” Hall said.
Reflecting on that first season, the ups and downs on the field, in practice, “it really shaped me, molded me,” Hall said.
“The biggest thing that has helped me to progress over time is just being faithful in little things, even things that may have seemed like they weren’t significant.”
Hall started to come into his own as a sophomore in 2017, starting all 13 games, ranking second on the team in passes defensed (10) – and the team grew as well, improving from 2-10 to 6-7, and in the process earning the program’s first bowl bid in six years.
As a junior in 2018, Hall was next-level good, leading the nation in passes broken up (22) and tying for the national lead in passes defensed (24) – as the ‘Hoos went 8-5, and brought home the program’s first bowl win since 2005 with a 28-0 whitewash of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl.
You could look at the steady improvement of UVA football as a function of the steady improvement of that two-star kid from Pennsylvania who is on his way to NFL riches.
But first, for Hall, before the NFL, there’s a bit of unfinished business.
He wants to be part of the group that gets UVA football over the hump, and 8-5, to Hall, isn’t quite over the hump.
“Knowing where we started: 2-10. To finish it out, doing something special, I don’t think you can write a better story than that. To be a trailblazer, and to be somebody who has been able to do that, it’s so humbling to have that opportunity in front of you,” Hall said.
Story by Chris Graham