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Gilbert Police Department
Max Hall, former BYU quarterback, was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting and possession of narcotic drugs, Aug. 30, 2014.

GILBERT, Arizona — After making his name as BYU's winningest quarterback in 2009, Max Hall was caught in a wave of media coverage and online debate Tuesday following his weekend arrest for investigation of shoplifting and drug possession.

Hall, 28, was arrested Saturday at a Gilbert Best Buy store, 2288 E. Williams Field Road, according to Gilbert Police Sgt. Jesse Sanger.

Hall's backpack contained "several stolen items from Best Buy and a nearby Wal-Mart store. Also located inside the backpack was a personal use quantity of cocaine," Sanger said.

The arrest

Hall was stopped by security personnel at the Best Buy and was cooperative as he waited for police to arrive. As officers approached Hall, he immediately apologized, according to a police report.

"I'm really sorry, I'll pay for the stuff. If I get arrested, I'll get fired. I've never done this before," Hall is quoted in the report.

Officers found $286 worth of electronics inside the backpack after employees saw Hall taking items out of their packaging, putting them in his bag and hiding the empty boxes, the report states.

"Most of the items were cellphone cases, cellphone chargers, smaller items like that, electronics, like that," Sanger said. "I think everything looks like it was $30 to $40 for each item."

Investigators also located hypodermic needles, a metal spoon, a lighter and what field tests confirmed was cocaine, stored in a pill bottle. Hall told police he had used the cocaine that morning, injecting himself near the elbow, the report states.

Hall then told police "I don't want to answer any more questions."

Hall was arrested at the Gilbert police station, where he was fingerprinted, photographed and released according to the department's policy.

No criminal charges have yet been filed against Hall, but police have forwarded recommendations to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. Shoplifting charges are generally misdemeanors while drug possession can be charged as a felony.

"It's up to the court and the judge to decide that," Sanger said.

Online reaction

News of Hall's arrest — and his mugshot in a BYU football T-shirt — quickly caught fire online. Amid criticism, gloating and armchair quarterbacking, Hall's fans and rivals alike used social media to share concern for Hall's well-being and kind thoughts for his family.

Among them was Derik Stevenson, a former BYU linebacker and graduate from the school's business program now working as an insurance broker. Stevenson said on Twitter he doesn't know Hall or what led him to allegedly be found with the drugs, but said the story sounds all too familiar.

For Stevenson, what started as a doctor's orders to regulate the pain that inevitably comes with playing college ball turned into a way to dull stress and anxiety, and later developed into an addiction to prescription drugs.

"The pain pills that you're given for your shoulder injury or your knee injury, those drugs help you cope with or deal with the other stressors," he said.

Stevenson said he hid his addiction, paralyzed by the bravado that comes with being an athlete and expectations within the LDS Church and BYU regulations that he be drug and alcohol free. When he left BYU and the coaches, trainers and team members who had supported him, Stevenson said he felt he had no one to turn to.

It's a problem Stevenson believes is widespread, not confined to any one school or team.

"A lot of the guys really rely on the drugs to get through a long season, and then when the season ends or especially when your career ends, there's nobody really there to help you deal with that issue anymore," he said.

For years, Stevenson's dependence on the pills followed him, until he realized it could ultimately cost him his relationship with his wife and his children. He asked for help.

Stevenson saw former teammates left with aches and pains after leaving the sport who turned to drinking or illegal drugs to replace the once plentiful supply of prescription medication.

For many, the only way back up is hitting the bottom, he said.

"Addicts don't admit that they're addicts until it's almost too late," Stevenson said. "Hopefully when guys hit that rock bottom, a judge or their wife or somebody tells them that's it's over, and they can finally be honest and admit they have a problem."

A storied career

Hall has made headlines off the field before. Following his final game on the Cougars' field in 2009, Hall gave an infamous interview blasting the University of Utah and its fans, apparently fueled by bad feelings from the year before when Hall said his family was mistreated by Ute fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Hall called the Utes "classless," going on to say, "I hate them, I hate everything about them."

He later apologized and was reprimanded by the Mountain West Conference.

Most recently Hall has been coaching as the Gilbert High School's offensive coordinator, a post he took after being cut from the the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers in June. A spokesman for Gilbert Public Schools said the school district is aware of Hall's arrest and is preparing to respond.

"We take these allegations very seriously and will respond expeditiously. We continue to gather information from the police at this time and will respond in the best interest of our students," chief of staff Alex Nardone said Tuesday.

An Arizona native, Hall transferred to BYU in 2005 from Arizona State where his famous uncle Danny White played before his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. He arrived in Provo following an abbreviated LDS mission to Des Moines, Iowa, and immediately redshirted before replacing John Beck, who also attended Mesa Mountain View High in Arizona.

Hall's BYU career included LaVell Edwards Stadium and Mountain West Conference records and he surpassed Ty Detmer (29) with most wins as a Cougar quarterback (32) when his career ended in 2009.

Hall's records on BYU's home field included a tie for most touchdown passes (7) against UCLA in 2008. He had six touchdown passes in the first half of that game, also a stadium record.

His finest season came as a senior when he led the Cougars to a win over No. 3 Oklahoma on a neutral field in Arlington, Texas. That year the Cougars finished 11-2 with wins over three ranked teams and ended up ranked No. 12 nationally.

Hall was signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 as an undrafted free agent, where he played six games.

Contributing: Andrew Adams, Dick Harmon, Paul Nelson

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam