Former BYU quarterback Max Hall is turning into one of the feel good stories in the NFL.
Even the most ardent Hall fans didn’t seen this coming.
Yesterday, he led the Arizona Cardinals to a 30-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
Hall was supposed to be too small, too slow and have too weak of an arm to play in the NFL. In training camp this summer, Hall looked like a smurf next the the other quarterbacks in camp.
Yet, there he was on Sunday, an undrafted free agent starting against the Super Bowl champs in just his fifth game as a pro.
Never mind that Hall threw an interception and fumbled the ball twice (both fumbles ended up being positive plays for Arizona). Never mind that Max was crushed at the goal line on one of those fumbles. Never mind that he didn’t throw a touchdown and that the Cardinals tallied less than 200 yards of total offense.
In the end it was his grit, his toughness, his leadership and his belief in himself that had his teammates and coaches talking.
“Max played well for his first start, he had the interception early but after that he came back and bounced back and played a pretty solid game,” said Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes, who returned a fumble for a touchdown for Arizona.
“I thought Max did a nice job, he made some big time throws for us,” said Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt. “During the course of the game he missed some things, but what I sense from Max is that he’ll get better as he gets more reps and gets more play time.
“He took a pretty good shot just before the half and he was a little bit winded and out of it,” Whisenhunt continued. “But he bounced back and made some plays for us and I think that’s a sign of his competitiveness, but I think what I also like is his understanding of what’s going on.
“A couple of times when we made mistakes, he came off the field and said ‘Why wasn’t this guy here, or why wasn’t that guy there?’, so to me that shows that a guy is dialed in.”
Hall completed 17-of-27 (63 percent) for 168 yards through the air and led Arizona on a touchdown drive and three drives that resulted in field goals. It was enough to keep the Cardinals in the game and made Arizona’s two defensive touchdowns mean something in the end.
The performance of the gutsy rookie seemed to energize the entire Cardinals team.
The general sense you got from reading reports prior to Sunday’s game is that Max has won over his teammates in Arizona. They see him as a leader, someone with fire in his belly. It’s an attribute that the Cardinals have been searching for since the retirement of Kurt Warner.
It’s an attribute that veteran Matt Leinart failed to demonstrate, and a main reason why Hall beat out the former Heisman Trophy winner for a spot on the Arizona roster. It had a lot to do with why he was named the starter this week over Derek Anderson as well.
Trying to project how successful a quarterback will be in the NFL these days is only slightly better than shooting craps. The history of the league is littered with guys with size and a cannon for an arm, that have been complete busts.
Over and over, the world of athletics shows us that what is deep down inside a player matters more than his physical prowess.
Whether or not Max continues to improve and holds on to the starting job in Arizona, only time will tell. One thing is certain, though, I would put a winner like Hall on the field every time over a guy that has all the measurables, but lacks the will to win.