Hopefully we can add KJ to the mix. I have a better feeling about him than last week. —BYU head coach Kalani Sitake
PROVO — Former BYU running back Kalin Hall starred at Valley High School in Las Vegas before he became a Cougar in the early 1990s.
So, naturally, he’s looking forward to watching his son, KJ, play in his hometown Friday (8:30 p.m., MST, ESPN2) when BYU visits UNLV.
Trouble is, KJ, a sophomore walk-on, is once again dealing with an injury and his status for Friday’s game is unknown. After rushing 10 times for 112 yards and a touchdown in the first half against San Jose State on Oct. 28, KJ was sidelined for last week’s 20-13 loss at Fresno State.
“It’s a rough deal. He got hurt the second game of the year, the first 10 plays,” Kalin said of KJ. “He was out six weeks and comes back, has a really good game and gets hurt again. It’s a little frustrating.”
Coach Kalani Sitake is optimistic about KJ’s return.
“Hopefully we can add KJ to the mix,” he said. “I have a better feeling about him than last week.”
When KJ’s healthy, he’s proven to be an impressive playmaker for the Cougars, as a ball carrier and as a pass-catcher.
The Halls own the distinction of being the only father-son duo to record 100-yard rushing games at BYU.
And, of course, KJ looks and plays an awful lot like his dad. Kalin can't help but notice the similarities in their running styles.
“With the lateral quickness stuff, yeah,” Kalin said. “He’s instinctive and I was an instinctive runner. He’s a cut-back guy and I was a cut-back guy. He’s quite a bit faster than I was. I was 15 pounds heavier. He’s a lot more explosive. The little bit he’s played, he’s looked fast and athletic. I thought he’s looked really good.”
Kalin was listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds when he was a Cougar while KJ is listed at 5-9, 175 pounds.
"I get a lot of those comments about how I look like my dad," KJ said, smiling. "I see a lot of the same type of plays that we make on the field. I see the similarities. It obviously comes from him coaching me the way that he did and the way I’m built. We’re the same.”
BYU (2-8) at UNLV (4-5)
Friday, 8:30 p.m. MDT Sam Boyd Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
KJ honors his dad by wearing the same jersey Kalin wore at BYU — No. 24.
Kalin, who rushed for 1,309 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Cougars in 1992-93, has coached KJ since he was a young boy and he's passed along his knowledge — in addition to some very good genes.
“I would like to say that I’m just a sounding board but ultimately I’m a coach, too. I played the game and he plays my position,” Kalin said. “I’m always giving my personal opinions. He’s an adult. He takes things when he deems that he needs to. He’s a good kid. He listens to a lot of things I tell him. He’s a hard worker and a grinder. Ultimately, he’s the type of kid you want on your team because he’ll run through a wall and work to get better. I’m proud of him.”
KJ doesn’t mind dealing with being the son of a former BYU star.
“There’s a good balance of being a legacy player and making your own footsteps. I have the same number as my dad but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m trying to be just like him,” KJ said. “My dad has told me if I’m not better than him then what have I accomplished? I have really big shoes to fill but at the same time, I’ve got to make my own path. I’m honored to be spoken of in the same breath as him because of what he did here, how he established himself and the type of man my father is. It’s a blessing.”
Kalin didn’t inundate KJ with his college game film when KJ was a kid.
“He didn’t watch any of my film until he was a senior in high school,” Kalin said. “I coached him up and showed him some things. I showed him Barry Sanders film and guys that I idolized. Outside of that, I didn’t have him look at my stuff much.”
“He had a couple of tapes that he had around the house that we’d find and watch and replay them,” said KJ, who played at Maple Mountain High in Spanish Fork. “If we ever needed to be humbled, he’d pull his tapes out for sure. He was just a mentor and coach our whole lives. He didn’t really talk about what he did here at BYU.”
Kalin said KJ isn’t one to get overwhelmed by the pressure of playing the same position, at the same school, as he did.
“He’s a really cerebral person by nature. He’s a quiet kid and analytical thinker,” Kalin said. “I don’t think that’s come across his head and concerns himself with those things. He just wants to build his own legacy and do things his way.”
For now, Kalin is hoping KJ is healthy enough to get carries Friday against UNLV and for the final three games of the season.
“The more touches he gets when he’s healthy, he’ll show folks what he can really do,” Kalin said. "He has a lot of skill set that he hasn’t shown as of yet but he’s got to stay healthy and get a little stronger.”