Cavs' Hall Starred at QB; Now He's on the Defensive
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Vic Hall is a cornerback now, which is still difficult to fathom for the thousands who watched him play quarterback in high school. They watched him become a star -- and later, a legend -- at Gretna Senior High, skittering around tacklers and chucking passes as no one ever had in Virginia.
"Vic started for me around 40 games," said Rob Senseney, Hall's high school coach for three seasons. "And he was the best player on the field in all 40."
Better yet, he would be playing his college ball right in his back yard, at Virginia. Hall's fans could watch all 5 feet 9 inches of him mystify defenses for four more seasons.
But during Hall's freshman season, a dearth of cornerbacks, and his size caused Coach Al Groh move Hall from quarterback to cornerback, shifting the most prolific Virginia high school quarterback ever to defense. Now a sophomore, Hall will start at cornerback when the Cavaliers open their season Saturday at Wyoming, having made the transition with ease and, maybe more so, grace.
"Vic Hall is consummate professional as far as the way he approached this whole thing," Virginia defensive coordinator Mike London said. "He's never complained about anything. He just wants the team to win. He'll play anywhere."
It seemed unlikely that Hall would play anything but quarterback. He started from the first day he arrived at Gretna, and no team could solve him for the next four years. Hall rang up 13,770 total yards in his career, which broke the record Ronald Curry set in 1997. Hall's passing marks of 8,731 yards and 104 touchdowns are also Virginia state records.
Still, some followers mocked Hall for playing in Group AA, the second level in Virginia's three-tier system. Once he got to college, they figured, his athleticism would no longer make up for his lack of size. Once, while watching film with Hall, Senseney said to him, "You know, when you get to college, there's going to be a lot of Vic Halls."
"It never bothered him," Senseney said.
By the time he arrived at Virginia, he had become perhaps the most beloved schoolboy athlete the state had seen. His humility won over even opponents. "If I'm ever lucky enough to have a son," Senseney said, "I hope is he's like Vic."
But he won over the state, particularly Virginia fans, by keeping his word. About 15 years earlier, Curry had orally committed to play both football and basketball for the Cavaliers, only to change his mind late and commit to North Carolina. By sticking with Virginia, Hall had seemingly given the state a chance to see what might have been had Curry held his commitment.
That chance never materialized. When Hall first started playing cornerback in 2005, the possibility remained for him to play behind center at one point. But when offensive coordinator Ron Prince, the coach who recruited Hall, became head coach at Kansas State, the move became more permanent.
"If Ron Prince had stayed, who knows what would have happened," Senseney said.
Both Senseney and Chris Cook, Hall's cousin and fellow starting cornerback, felt Hall wanted to play quarterback in college. Hall said he viewed the move without disappointment.
"I was excited," he said.
Senseney, at one point, asked Hall if he considered transferring somewhere he could play quarterback. Each time, Senseney got the sense that Hall seemed almost nonplussed at the notion.
Hall initially struggled with defensive terminology, but the physical side came naturally, "just being a football player," Hall said. Hall would ask Cook, whom he also lives with, questions about small techniques or schemes. The questions would often turn into extended conversations about the Cavaliers' defense. Hall no longer asks Cook anything.
"I trust him," Cook said. "I don't feel like we have a weakness in our defensive backfield."
"Vic has become one of my all-time favorites," London said. "You can put him on any kind of team -- special teams, holder, anything -- he does well at it. He is one of the guys, time after time, practice after practice, that sets the standard."