Transcript: UVA Football at the 2019 ACC Kickoff

uva footballUVA Football coach Bronco Mendenhall and players Bryce Hall and Bryce Perkins talk with reporters at the 2019 ACC Kickoff.

THE MODERATOR: University of Virginia joins us.

We will joined by Bryce Perkins, the quarterback if UVA. Questions, please.

Q. Just what you could say as a representative of this team, if you feel this is a team that’s trending upward, have you been getting a sense of that, do you feel like this season is maybe you on the precipice of doing something better?
BRYCE PERKINS: I mean, yes, definitely. Just looking at last summer to this summer, even last spring to this spring, the sense of urgency we have as a team in how player to player accountability, just how we train has definitely grown from last year to this year.

I think everybody on our team is starting to believe, starting to work like we deserve to be in the top conversation. We expect to be great. We won’t settle for anything less.

Q. I had the chance last year to be at Duke to watch your football game against the Blue Devils. At one point during the game I heard all of this noise. I looked across the field, thought it might have been the fans, but it turned out to be the sideline. What is it about the Mendenhall program, where is the energy coming from that you’re creating your own loud noise during the course of a ballgame?
BRYCE PERKINS: Man, we definitely emphasize the fourth side a lot. After games, you will come in, have a team meeting, kind of observe, kind of analyze how effective people were that weren’t playing, or maybe weren’t playing at the time, just how much energy they bring to the game, to the stadium.

I mean, it definitely matters. You see with Duke, even South Carolina, Miami, how animated we were, how much we fed off of it, whether it be offense or defense. Brings life not just us but also the fans, which also is a big part of the game.

The fourth side we pride ourselves on, definitely people that participate pride themselves on, too, so…

Q. 212 rushing attempts last year. As I repeat that number, would you like that to go up, down or be about the same?
BRYCE PERKINS: Well, I didn’t even know that. I mean, really, whatever the game calls for. It’s going to be games whether it calls for it to be higher, games that call for it to be lower. Whatever the games call for, it’s for us to win. That’s the ultimate end goal, is to win.

Whatever I need to do, whatever role I need to play to do so, I’ll be happy to.

Q. On the media guide I believe you and Bryce Hall are the faces kind of split there. What can you say about being the face of this season with Bryce Hall and at the same time, what you think about practicing up against him, what he brings to the table?
BRYCE PERKINS: I mean, it’s an honor just to be a representative of this team on the offensive side because there’s only two guys that get to come up here. To be with a guy like Bryce, who I definitely learned a lot from just as far as the leadership aspect, as a player, how he trains, how he treats his body. Definitely an inspiration to me.

Going against him every day in spring, coming up in the fall, it’s definitely going to be a challenge. It definitely is going to not only better myself, but better the receivers. It’s going to better the team.

Not going to go up against a better corner than him. It allows to get that early work.

Q. There’s been six different champions in the Coastal over the last six years. Virginia is the only one that hasn’t won that. How much would it mean to you guys? Do you feel like you have a chance to win this division?
BRYCE PERKINS: Yeah, I mean, we know what we have on our team. We definitely have the talent and we definitely have the mindset, too. It’s going to be a factor of how hard in late season, late games in the season, how competitive and ferocious we take the field in those games. That’s going to determine the factor.

Not only that, but closing out games. We have to become a team of great finishing ability. Just keep that in the back of the mind.

Q. Last season maybe you snuck up on some folks. Now everyone knows your name. How has that added attention been like for you? How will it change your approach to be playing with an X on your back this season?
BRYCE PERKINS: I mean, I’m definitely, for me, I’ve always been the biggest critic of myself. I’m definitely self-motivated to do better more so for personal reasons rather than having a lot of attention on me. I definitely want to be the best version of me I can. Last year gave me something to work on and gave me a platform to strive for this year, kind of overachieve on that.

I’m just making sure that I’m all I can be for this team. I think what separates a good quarterback from great quarterback is the ability to win a championship. Having that as a motivation, just keep going.

Q. How much did the bowl victory, a dominant bowl performance convince you and bolt you guys into this off-season?
BRYCE PERKINS: I mean, I think the Virginia Tech loss was a great thing for our team looking — going into the South Carolina game because it kind of set the mindset about practice, how practice should be. Coming off a loss, the only thing that is going to make you feel better is the next week and a win.

How we practiced for three weeks, three or so weeks leading up to that game, was still just mad, just mad, just ferocious. Looking after the South Carolina game, we have to make sure we know what it takes to perform at that level. Let’s not have it take a loss for us to get back to that level of competitiveness. We should start how we should. Definitely you can see if you come to our summer workouts we definitely have been training like that all summer.

THE MODERATOR: Mr. Perkins, we thank you for the time. We’ll bring up Mr. Hall.

BRYCE PERKINS: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: The second of our two Bryces will join us for a few minutes.

Questions, please.

Q. Same question for you: Do you feel this team has been on maybe a consistent uptick, if you feel like you’re on the precipice of something going into this season?
BRYCE HALL: Absolutely. I think any time we’re in this league, we want to win a championship. So I don’t think you ever go into a season not aiming for that as your goal.

With that in mind, you know, I think there is understanding what we did last year, trying to learn from our mistakes, then kind of put that behind us. I think the more you kind of dwell on what you did in the past can make you complacent moving forward. With that in mind, we know what we’re capable of doing. Now we’re trying to be even better than we were a year ago.

Q. What is it about UVA and your program that produces high-caliber defensive backs?
BRYCE HALL: I think it goes into the coaching. I think when you have the coaching staff that we have that pushes us each and every day to be the best that we can be, even though it’s uncomfortable a lot of times, it really stretches you in different ways. So having that culture and being in that for a while, knowing and understanding. They come from a place where they had a lot of success, they understand what greatness looks like.

So being around them and learning and taking coaching, just trusting in everything that they have for us, what they’re instilling in us, has helped us to be everything that I think you’ve seen over the past couple years or so.

I think it goes into trusting and believing in what they have for us, coming in and actually applying what they’re teaching us and preaching us every single day.

Q. Coach Mendenhall and his staff have preached the motto of everything earned, nothing given to you. Now that you’re coming off a winning season, how much harder is coach and the upperclassmen hitting that message hard, doesn’t matter we came off of a winning season, we have to go out there and re-earn everything over the summer?
BRYCE HALL: Absolutely. The thing is, after each year, we’re always looking at how can we be better, how can we improve. That thing, it’s reoccurring. Like you said, each year we’re trying to figure out how can we be better. Through the process, one of our core values, is earn not given. When you have that mindset perspective, no matter what happened last year, this is a new year, and you have to go out and earn it each and every week.

Nothing’s guaranteed to you. Nothing is going to be given to you. With that mindset and approach, it helps us put in perspective that we’re going to have to come out each and every week and earn everything that we get.

Q. Looking back seven, eight months, how tough was your decision to stay in school for another year?
BRYCE HALL: Yeah, I think over these past couple months of me being here, I absolutely think it was the best decision for me because I’ve developed in areas that I might not have been able to develop had I gone to another level, just as a leader. I’m being stretched every day as far as trying to hold people accountable to the standard or just progressing and understanding it’s not about you, it’s about other people.

Then also being humble. You get a lot of praise, things like that, but also being humble and being the example each and every day when you show up to work, and learning how to encourage others, communicate, share the vision.

It’s taught me something that is something very valuable lessons that I don’t know I would have had the chance to. There’s a reason I felt like God had called me back for another year. I’m understanding and I’m learning that now, that it’s been the best decision for me.

I didn’t really see that at first, but now going through it, I’m starting to see that. So I’m just trying to learn each and every lesson through each situation and trying to learn and grow from ’em.

Q. Whether it’s football, basketball or academics, the word people keep using to describe you is “perfectionist.” Where does that come from? Someone in your past or experience that drove that home to you?
BRYCE HALL: I think just — yeah, there is. I think things that my dad instilled in me growing up, just kind of realizing early in life that things aren’t going to be handed to you, so you have to work for what you want to accomplish.

Coming into this program, being around Coach Mendenhall and Coach Howell, the defensive guys, has taught me a lot about there’s a right way and there’s a wrong way to do things. So I’m trying to do everything I do to the best of my perfection.

Kind of going off this year, a verse, “Do everything you do as unto the Lord.” With that in mind, it’s be faithful in the little things, even though they don’t seem like they’re important in the moment, but just take little thing seriously, try to do it to the best of your abilities.

I think that’s where it kind of comes in, being a perfectionist, trying to do things the right way. Obviously I’m not perfect by any stretch, I always mess up and make mistakes. It’s trying to do things as best as you can. I attribute that a lot to the coaches, how they’ve instilled that work ethic in us. Also just the culture that we’re building here.

THE MODERATOR: Bryce, thank you very much.

Coach Mendenhall will come up. Questions, please.

Q. Your three years at Virginia as you head forward here, what you can say you’ve learned from your time in Virginia. A short time ago you stood at this podium here for the first time. Now looking back at that moment to where you are, what you’ve learned, what you’ve taken as you step forward.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: What I’ve learned at Virginia is it’s a magical place. I recently heard our university president, Jim Ryan, give an address where he talked about those at UVA he expects us to be good and great. “Great” meaning how we perform, how we accomplish our tasks, how we’re worthy of our hire, but “good” meaning the morals, values and integrity with which we do it.

What I’ve learned at UVA is it does matter that you’re good, and it does matter that you’re great. Those are our expectations.

I’ve also learned that there are amazing young people, bright and vibrant and articulate, young guys that I’m really proud of. I’ve become connected to the two Bryces over here, and other members of our team, in a way that I’m not sure I knew was possible. Doing hard things together is a bonding experience. It’s enriched human relationships in a way that’s maybe the most gratifying I’ve had through coaching.

What we’re accomplishing, not accomplished, but accomplishing, and building I think is something that will be looked at as exceptional at some point. I’m lucky to be part of that. But also what I’ve learned is how difficult it is. The deficit we’ve launched from, and it’s gratifying that we’re making progress.

Q. You talked about trying to be great. I asked Bryce, there’s been six different champions in this division. You’re the only team that hasn’t. How much would it mean to get there? Do you feel like you guys are on the precipice, ready to take that step? Is that the goal?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: I’ll start in reverse order.

Certainly it’s the goal. Any time you’re part of a conference, the goal is to win the conference championship. That’s some of the value added of being in a conference, is to win the conference championship. Yes, it would be nice for us to clean up this nice little package of now us being the seventh team, the seventh different team to win the Coastal. It doesn’t always work like that. That will happen when we earn it, when we play well enough for that to happen.

A year ago two overtime losses prevented that from happening. Those overtime losses weren’t accidental; we were outplayed and we didn’t execute in the critical moments. But we did apply those learnings, we worked relentlessly and shut out an SEC opponent that was another indication of our capability.

We have as good a chance as anyone on our side of the division to win this league.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that. We have a returning quarterback. We have a strong defense. We have a culture of excellence. We have confidence. We have an expectation that that’s what we’re capable of.

Now, doing that is the next part. So we’re optimistic, we’re excited, but also acknowledge the challenge. As you said, it hasn’t been done for a while for UVA. That would make it that much more gratifying if we are the team to be able to do that.

Q. I was going to ask you about the overtime thing, so I might just threw that in there. Is overtime part of your game planning from week to week? Maybe just a second question: I saw you talking to Bryce Perkins when Bryce Hall was up there speaking. Talk about your relationship with your quarterback and how important that is for the football team.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Addressing the first question, which is with regard to overtime preparation. Certainly we are adding that with increased emphasis. That’s part of what happens as your program builds in competency. Games become meaningful, the type of situations you encounter become nor pressure stilled. Each of those steps is qualified for.

Winning ten is different than winning eight. Overtime preparation and critical-moment preparation is something our program needs. It’s something that we’ll continue to focus on. As all of you know, to win a championship, there are critical moments. If you look at Coach Bennett’s program, overtime wins do matter in the quest of a national championship. If you look at our lacrosse team, overtime wins, that is part of winning a national championship.

We’re still in the learning phase of handling overtime and pressure-filled moments with high stakes on the line. What we can do is apply the learnings. The very next chance we got, we shut out an opponent who was supposed to be not shutout-able. We applied those learnings, we just have to do that on a more consistent basis.

In terms of my conversation with Bryce, I’m very thankful and lucky Bryce chose UVA. He’s the primary reason we jumped our win output from six to eight. He’s one of the primary catalysts for our program. I acknowledge his role. Quite frankly, how he goes, we go. That’s part of being a quarterback at UVA under our system.

What I was talking with Bryce about, I was talking about in the setting to speak slowly, articulately, make eye contact, because the tendency is to race what you say. He has a vibrant message to share. He’s very wise. The content matters. I just wanted to make sure that every one of you had a chance to hear it. We were talking about presentation when I was talking to him here a second ago.

Q. Talk a little bit about your schedule. Obviously you have the three straight home games in September followed by four road games in five weeks in October.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Really unique challenge. There’s never an ideal schedule, and there’s never an ideal schedule for an existing team, at least that I’ve coached yet.

We have a great opportunity and a formidable challenge in our opener. We played Pitt on the road, which is an ACC opener, arguably against the two teams that were competing and had the best chance to win the coastal last year in a hard-fought game. We haven’t beaten them yet. It’s a significant challenge which adds urgency to our fall camp preparation.

Then as you mentioned, it’s cyclical. We have games at home, which is only part of the story. Who you play is also part of it. Then to be on the road knowing that most of those games are conference games, that’s a difficult challenge.

However, we’ve had three years of preparation. Hopefully we’ve learned and will apply all the things necessary to help us through that stretch with this team, who I think is capable of handling it, but it will not be easy.

Q. Playing Liberty again late in the season, how did you find playing them late in the season that maybe helped prepare you for that last Virginia Tech game to get you tuned up? Could you talk about playing the team again with Hugh Freeze, the additions he’s made in Lynchburg.
BRONCO MENDENHALL: The Liberty schedule fits into a scheduling paradigm that I like for the University of Virginia. That means I like close and I like regional games of intrigue. Knowing the ACC asks us to play in addition to our ACC conference, which by the way I think is exceptional from top to bottom, when you count the crossover games as well, I think our league is deep. It has the national champion. It’s won more games in the post-season than any other league recently in ’19. To underestimate what the league is like would be a mistake for anyone not to assess it as such, which is a very strong league.

I like the idea of then playing the one other Power 5 team we’re asked to play. I like the idea of three regional intriguing teams. Liberty made a lot of sense, as did Old Dominion. I think those are teams that I think tie the state together and add a different level of interest.

In terms of Hugh Freeze, his track record in terms of success speaks for itself. His offense of ingenuity, it certainly is what Liberty wanted in terms of a football coach, and that’s who they got.

In terms of the timing, that happened to work without within the ACC scheduling construct. It wasn’t attention. I would just as soon have played them earlier. But where it fit is where it fit.

Q. You mentioned in the past you’ve only coached a handful of players that have the kind of dedication to film study that Bryce Hall does. Was that innate in him as a freshman, something that to be taught? How has that played into his development?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: Bryce Hall’s preparation started with interest and desire. Bryce was anxious to learn, anxious to improve, to perfect his skills. Really was craving feedback on how to become an exceptional player.

Coach Howell, our defensive coordinator and secondary coach, provided a lot of insight. I simply supervised an architect kind of the learning process.

Bryce then really approaches every day as if he is going to work. He shows up early. He has his own space basically dedicated in our football facility where he studies film and practices his craft on film and on paper. He’s there from morning till night around his classes.

That’s not something that every player in our program does, but it provides a great example for what I would like the future of our program to look like by more players. When your most successful players have those kind of habits, it gives you your best chance for them to be passed onto other players in your program and have a strong culture. We would not have had the success over three years and the trajectory we’re on, which is rapid, fast and sustainable, without players dedicating and showing that kind of initiative that Bryce Hall is doing.

Q. On Saturday we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. In 1962, John F. Kennedy said, We choose to go to the moon because it is hard. If we reshape that and said, We choose to play football because it is hard, what is it about football that is hard?
BRONCO MENDENHALL: You’ve touched a nerve now with me in terms of the topic I’m passionate about. I just finished reading a book that I love, that’s called The Obstacle is the Way.

I think football is hard if the coach and the leader intentionally designs challenges to ensure that it’s difficult and stretches and molds and grooms young people to do things they’ve never done before.

I don’t think all football is hard. I think there are some programs and some coaches and some approaches where it might not be hard. I think that would be doing a disservice to the development of young people.

I love challenges that ask you to be and do more than you’ve ever done before. That’s where growth happens. I’m passionate about the growth of young people. So when you move yourself and 14 staff members and over 60 little kids across the country to inherit a program, that’s hard, but great.

Relationships are formed that couldn’t have been formed before. Depth is added that couldn’t have been added before. Then relationships with these players and who they become couldn’t have been ever formed without taking those risks and the inherent challenges with them.

That in and of itself is the reward. I can’t say that winning isn’t tracked, because it is. I can’t say there is security, because there isn’t, unless you win. But to miss the construction of hard challenges for each individual in your program every day to me would be doing a disservice knowing the work by Angela Duckworth on grit, says that grit or doing hard things consistently is a greater predictor of young people’s success than test score or GPA. If you know that, care about your players, why would you not ask them to do hard things knowing it’s going to determine their outcome. That’s what we’re doing at UVA.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.



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