SANDY — Max Hall listened as his former coach recounted a story illustrating his toughness on the football field.
Former BYU quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman told a room full of high school quarterbacks and receivers about the last game of Hall’s collegiate career, which included a hit so hard that he bit through his tongue and tore the meniscus in his knee.
Not only did Hall rebuke his coach for asking if he was OK, but after he struggled back to his feet, he threw a touchdown pass the very next play that turned the game in the Cougars’ favor, Doman said.
Then Hall, the winningest quarterback in BYU’s history, stood and told the teenagers about the hit from which he wasn’t sure he could recover.
“There was a weird part of me that loved getting knocked down and me getting up faster than that guy,” Hall said. “But when life knocked me down, and I’m sitting there not knowing what to do, it was the first time in my life where I thought about not getting up.” Hall shared his football knowledge with the participants in the QB Elite Camp Friday night, but he also told them how his struggles with addiction threatened to take everything he’d worked for and that which he valued most — his family.
“My advice to you guys is, when your buddy says, ‘Hey, let’s go smoke a joint,’ when they say, ‘Hey let’s go to a party, there will be alcohol there and everybody is drinking,’ yeah, it seems real cool at the time, I’ve been there. But please don’t get caught up in that stuff. I can personally tell you it will ruin your life. Maybe not everybody, but if you have an addictive personality like me it will. Just don’t do it because you just don’t know.” Hall said he’d dealt with normal “teenage” temptations before a concussion and dislocated shoulder put him on a path to an addiction to pain pills during his rookie NFL season.
Hall suffered a brutal hit in his first start against the New Orleans Saints. Despite suffering a severe concussion, he said he lied about his symptoms because he was afraid it would end his NFL dreams.
“I wanted to keep playing, so I played on these concussions,” he told the young men participating in the two-day camp that teaches football and leadership skills. “But I wasn’t thinking straight and I didn’t play well, so they pulled me. That made me upset. Finally, they put me back in a game, and I dislocated my shoulder. I’m in pain and upset and what makes all that go away? These little pills. The next thing I know, they’re all gone in three days.”
He said he called “old buddies” asking if they could help him buy more pain medication.
“This connection leads to that connection and the next thing you know, you’re in the wrong world,” he said. “I was afraid to get help because I thought it would ruin my reputation. It took something like that happening for me to realize I had a problem.”
That was his arrest for shoplifting and drug possession on Aug. 30, 2014. He said it’s impossible for him to put into words how hopeless and humiliated he was sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs.
“I was just bawling,” Hall said. “I thought, ‘It’s over. I’m done.’ It’s a crazy feeling. I can’t even describe what that feels like. You’ve lost everything — your family, your reputation, jut everything is gone.”
He asked the boys to look at him as he talked about what makes a successful quarterback and what makes a successful life — decision-making.
Regardless of skill, he said, if a quarterback can’t make good decisions under pressure, he won’t succeed. That includes the decisions made off the field.
For the players, the camp’s emphasis not just on what they do but who they are made a significant impact.
“Max’s class was great,” said Olympus High senior Sawyer Pierce about the sessions Hall led on how to read defenses. “His story is very interesting, the ups and downs he’s had in his life. It gave me a different perspective, you know, that everyone is going to have a tough time, whether that’s football or life. You’re going to have to struggle thought it, and then there is always something after it.”
As a life-long BYU fan, Bronson Barron grew up cheering for Max Hall. He said Hall, who now coaches high school football and owns a Pilates gym with his wife, had the most significant impact on him.
“His story, that no matter whatever the circumstances, you have to be able to toughen up and stand back up, not let that get to you,” said the American Fork senior quarterback. “That really stuck with me, just being able to rise up from any circumstances or occasion.”
The candid nature of Hall’s presentation is “what really got to me,” Barron said. “It really hit me. … On making decisions, like he was saying, your decisions can have a domino effect. One bad decision can lead to another, and you have to make sure you’re on top of it.” While coaching high school football may not be the future Hall envisioned, he said it is the life he needs.
“I love coaching,” he said. “More importantly, giving back and helping the kids. I’m still learning how to do that. I’m getting better. Once I get it down, I think I can have a really big impact.”
He said he addresses his addiction through meetings, education and service every day of his life.
“I have to be doing something every day,” he said, adding that working with and developing young football players supports his recovery. “You get a high from helping people.”