He never fit in at Arizona State, the dear alma mater at which his uncle, Dallas Cowboys great Danny White starred. He fit in better at BYU--throwing for over 11,000 yards and almost 100 TDs--but he never truly fit the mold of a great BYU quarterback. He wasn't ever an aw-shucks Heisman guy like Ty Detmer, he wasn't a renegade, take-no-prisoners Jim McMahon type, he wasn't squeaky clean like Gifford Nielsen--nor did he win a national title like Robbie Bosco.
Max Hall was caught somewhere in the middle, between his Warren Spahn and Catfish Hunter, trying to find a place where he threw best among BYU's throwing greats. When others wanted him to throw more--his 5 INT game and loss against rival Utah comes to mind--he accepted those risks and kept trying. And when he ran his mouth after BYU beat Utah the next year, others told him to shut up, yet he wouldn't. Either way, he was always too this or too that for anyone's good.
Hall never knew who he wanted to be--or where he fit among BYU's pantheon of QB legends. He was aloof, he was childish and he was always looking like he had one foot out the door leading away from that hallowed hall of bronzed statues--ready to go back to the Arizona desert and Uncle Danny White and leave Provo for good.
Of course, Hall came back to Provo--everybody does, even McMahon eventually did. Even Steve Clements, that twangy Texas QB and failure at BYU, did--he ended up coaching high school ball in Lehi. So it was no surprise Hall eventually returned to BYU to jump start his coaching career, cutting his teeth as a graduate assistant there in 2012--just like it was no surprise Hall decided to play football in Canada last year after a two-year break from the sport.
So Hall went to Canada--Winnipeg to be exact--and found himself playing for and starting for the Blue Bombers where he threw for about 2,000 yards in 12 games and had more interceptions than touchdowns. That's the part you heard about. The part you didn't hear about--that nobody heard about--was that Hall may have been playing football in the great white north out of a different kind of necessity. And so here begins a cautionary tale for anyone wanting to play football at BYU, at Utah, at, well, anywhere.
Nobody actually knows what Hall's necessity might have been--he was released by the Blue Bombers during training camp earlier this summer--but the latest developments in Hall's career leads you to believe there may be more to that story, too.
USC QB great Todd Marinovich admitted to the film crew that shot his award-winning documentary that the only reason he kept playing in his later years was to pay for his drug habit.
As Karl Marx once said, "Religion is the opiate of the masses." So when that natural high of playing football at a high level leaves--as it left Hall once he left BYU, the NFL and the CFL--then what do you do? How do you get that high that leaves after you throw for tens of thousands of yards and your arm looks and feels like it's been through a meat grinder?
Do you do the things that propelled everyone to think you were a pompous jerk based on the things you said about Utah fans in the first place? Or do you go to a different place, a more personal place that only you know about, a kind of place nobody would want to talk about?
Because this kind of thing seems to happen at BYU more often than at other schools, and no, that's not a good thing; that's not okay--and yes for anyone's peace of mind, it does need to be talked about, dragged out into the open and discussed over and over and over again, until someone, anyone, fixes the problem.
The fact of the matter is, nobody except for Hall himself knows how long Hall has been on this roller coaster--but it appears he's been on one heck of a ride for a while now. Former BYU teammate Ben Criddle said in an interview with KSL-TV on Tuesday that Hall may have been having trouble as far back as high school.
When Gilbert, Arizona police revealed on Tues. Sept. 2 that Hall was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting items from area Best Buy and Wal-Mart stores inside of a backpack he was wearing, well, that was just the tip of the iceberg. Hall also had inside his backpack traces of cocaine in a pill bottle, two hypodermic needles, a metal spoon and a lighter.
Hall was also wearing a BYU football shirt while committing the crimes, adding a punchline for those Utah fans who hate Hall for what he said after that fateful game in 2009--except drug abuse isn't a laughing matter.
Neither is shoplifting, but people who hate Hall will probably get a kick out of this story because it's sensational beyond words--he was reportedly stealing cell phone chargers. Meanwhile, the story is sad because in the end, Hall was just as aloof stealing merchandise from a store as he was talking to the media in his playing days.
The only part of this story that might make sense to most--but hopefully not all--is that Hall was arrested, and hopefully, that will help him get the help he needs.
If any lesson is to be learned by Hall, the media, or anyone else who cares about this story, know this: addiction crosses all boundaries, be it religion or class status, race or intellect, and especially the red or blue team you root for on Saturdays.
Addicts will often lie and cheat, beg, borrow and steal to get their fix. Hall's arrest appears to have been an attempt to keep his addiction going--only he knows why and for how long though.
Hall also told police he was going down this road of stealing to support his habit for the first time, reportedly telling the Gilbert police officer who arrested him that he was sorry and that he'd never done this before--he just didn't want to lose his current job as Gilbert High School's offensive coordinator.
Hall also told police at the time of his arrest that he had just injected coke into his elbow--probably to alleviate pain he suffered after having multiple shoulder separations and surgeries as a player. The list of current and former NFL players and coaches suspended and/or banned for life due to substance abuse is long and it usually doesn't end well--resulting in bodily harm, incarceration and even death.
In theory, Hall's arrest is a lot like Hall's career in both the NFL and CFL--one without a great deal of success, or mutual respect. After his career at BYU, for example, he wasn't drafted, yet he still managed to earn a tryout for his home state Arizona Cardinals--only to throw for just one touchdown and six interceptions with a paltry QB rating of 35.7.
Even when Hall played for the Cardinals at the nexus of his pro career in 2011, he was a last resort type of option. He was first signed to the practice squad before ineffective play at QB led the Cardinals coaching staff to give him a shot.
Hall didn't produce in his first outing with the Cardinals, throwing for three yards and one interception. His second game was better--still not stellar. His third game, also his only start in his career, was his best yet as a pro. He had 167 yards passing, one TD and two INTs--but the following week he was replaced and never played another snap in the NFL.
In many regards, Hall's career in football has been cautionary, and he's always had to learn lessons the hard way. Something always prevented some teams, and most fans, from taking a chance on him--Arizona State and every NFL team except for Hall's hometown Cardinals--yet he was brave enough to try, and try again to play at a high level--until he got it right.
In life, you hope as a human being that despite a person's flaws and tragedies, they find the strength, the faith, to get it right. In the end winning football games is the only measuring stick by which all QB's are judged. It's how it was at BYU, in the NFL and in the CFL. In life, however, you win just by learning how to play the game.
For some, it's an easy solution. For others like Hall, who has a world of talent in his arm that threw for tens of thousands of yards, it's not as easy. He has a wife and two kids and he lost his home in Arizona after selling it, and leaving it all behind for a fresh start in Canada.
While no charges were filed against Hall--he was released shortly after his arrest--the former BYU star could be looking at a misdemeanor shoplifting charge and a drug charge that carries with it a felony sentence.
The last part of the story, or the possibility of a felony charge, is the most frightening of all for someone with a family--because it would surely mean an end to Hall's coaching career. When you're addicted though, you can forget about helping others--you're in a race to save yourself.