SALT LAKE CITY — One of the most appealing things about Max Hall was that he was honest. You could love him or not, but he didn’t usually deliver the prepackaged remarks. It was Hall who told me he had held his I-hate-Utah material for a year before it boiled over after beating the Utes in 2009. It wasn’t a spontaneous incident after all. It was also Hall who told public relations staffers as he left the locker room after the game, “I apologize in advance.”
Though the message offended many, it was hard to fault the sincerity.
He was telling the truth as he saw it.
Hall also said he later laughed with friends — some Utah fans — about the frenzy it caused. “The people I feel bad for is the ones who take it seriously,” he said. “It really upset a lot of people. I’m like, ‘Come on.’”
A lot of people are taking this seriously, too. The former BYU quarterback was arrested Saturday on suspicion of possessing stolen items and cocaine.
This was more reality than a lot of people would like.
Hall had been charged with nothing at press time. But the arrest illustrated the point that bad things can happen, even to decent people. Hall isn’t the first former Cougar to run into trouble with the law.
Some might say this is an indication that the honor code at BYU is a sham, even though Hall isn’t at the school anymore. But any Cougar player, former or current, will admit the code follows them wherever they go. Hall also coached at BYU as a graduate assistant.
This story doesn’t negate the honor code, it illustrates its relevance.
Realistically, with the number of players that go through BYU, some will end up in trouble. In past years, more things remained secret. Being a player today, at any college, is a visible and vulnerable position. Just ask Florida State’s Jameis Winston or USC’s Josh Shaw. Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall invites particular scrutiny, willingly, with his blend of religion and football. He regularly points out he expects his players to have unimpeachable character.
Hall was one of the early players for Mendenhall.
Last time I talked to Hall he was out of the NFL and leaving BYU to try his luck in the Canadian Football League. He was upbeat and forthright. His career, though, didn’t seem to be going terribly well. He played two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, actually starting three games before injuries and numbers ended his hopes. In 2013, playing for Winnipeg, he completed 57 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,999 yards.
His greatest moment came on a 2007 fourth-and-18 pass to Austin Collie against Utah, setting up the winning score. He later said he played with a separated shoulder. But his most (in)famous moment was after the 2009 game against the Utes. He threw the game-winning pass to Andrew George, then delivered the rant heard 'round the world: “I don’t like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them.”
He went on to call the Utes “classless.”
At the behest of the team’s public relations team, he apologized the next day, saying he didn’t mean to disparage everyone associated with Utah — which included some LDS general authorities.
“I didn’t think it was big a deal; I didn’t know till Duff (Tittle, BYU associate athletics director) called me, and said, ‘We’re gonna have to do something.’” Hall later said. “It spiraled quickly out of control.”
So has this.
Whatever comes of this arrest, the story is embarrassing to Hall, as well as family, friends and his alma mater. It would be a good idea for him to, at some point, be as upfront as he normally is, cautioning others to avoid putting themselves in bad situations.
Now, more than ever, he should make honesty his friend.
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