Virginia's Vic Hall Focuses on Quarterback After Three Years as a Cornerback

Vic Hall was a star quarterback in high school, but wasn't recruited as one because he stands 5 feet 9. Now he's in the mix for the Cavaliers' starting job.
Vic Hall was a star quarterback in high school, but wasn't recruited as one because he stands 5 feet 9. Now he's in the mix for the Cavaliers' starting job. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 3, 2009

As Vic Hall drove on Route 29 toward Charlottesville this summer, he glanced at a billboard erected on the left side of the road and spotted the face of the 2009 Cavaliers.

It was a giant portrait of himself.

As a child in Gretna, Va., Hall passed similar signs. He does not remember the players featured on those billboards, but he remembers what they represented.

"I never could have imagined I'd be in that position," Hall said.

And for good reason. After setting several state passing records as a quarterback at Gretna Senior High, Hall was initially used as a cornerback by Virginia Coach Al Groh, mainly because the Cavaliers were often thin at the position. Soon he was firmly entrenched in the secondary, playing there in 36 games over the past three seasons.

Hall did not say a word, following a lesson his grandmother, Frances Hall, taught him as a child: "Always stand behind your leader."

But in Hall's 37th game -- last season's finale against Virginia Tech -- Groh started Hall at quarterback. He ended up rushing for 109 yards and two touchdowns while also recording three tackles, a sack and a forced fumble on defense.

Hall's success in the finale may help simplify Groh's decision this season. Hall, who hardly possesses a quarterback's stature at 5 feet 9 and 185 pounds, entered spring practice as the team's top quarterback. When he arrived for preseason camp, he was issued only an offensive playbook.

"I've dreamed about playing quarterback a lot, but that's something I've kept to myself," Hall said. "I never would have thought I'd be playing it going into my last year. It feels good, because I want to have the ball for my team. For me personally, having the ball, I think I can help this team more than in any position."

Hall displayed those skills in high school, when he passed for a state-record 8,731 yards and 104 touchdowns and rushed for 5,039 yards and 66 touchdowns. He won two state championships and earned high school all-American honors.

But among recruiting circles, Hall was listed as an "athlete" because most college coaches don't actively seek out 5-9 quarterbacks. Plus, Hall's records were not set against the state's biggest schools.

"What happened in my high school, this is a whole different level," Hall said. "I got a whole lot to prove to myself -- not anyone else."

He must show that he can effectively pass the ball with his compact stature, especially after the four-year hiatus.

Hall attempted only one pass in the Virginia Tech game and spent the spring readjusting to the position. Groh said footwork and balance are as imperative for Hall to master as throwing motion.

"For us, for everybody, that's the issue to be answered," Groh said. "Until it's actually happened, it's not been done. But clearly, if we went out there in the spring game and the throws were such that we said, 'Look, this just isn't going to work,' that would be pretty apparent. And that wasn't the case."

Hall said he emulates former Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans, who spent training camp with the Washington Redskins as a wide receiver. Hagans has similar measurements to Hall -- Hall said Hagans has the "biggest heart" he has encountered -- and tutored Hall four seasons ago.

"Before we even brought him in, I remember Coach talking about how me and him were so much alike," Hagans said. "You couldn't help but know Vic Hall. Here's a guy in high school taking over newspapers where college games were. I knew from Day One, from the first time I saw him play, he was going to be an amazing athlete. I just wanted to make sure that whatever I could pass on, I passed on."

Working in Hall's favor is that he is universally respected on the team. He was elected captain as both a junior and senior and injected confidence into the program during the quarterback transition in spring. New York Giants linebacker Clint Sintim, a former Virginia standout, dubbed him "Do-It-All Hall," a nickname that has stuck.

"Without putting a number on it," Groh said, "Vic is one of the most respected by coaches and teammates that we've had."

Groh has not named the Cavaliers' starting quarterback (Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica are also in the mix), but he also has not quieted his praise for Hall.

He admitted that if candidates were equal, the respect others have for Hall would be a factor.

If that is the deciding factor, then the man who was taught to always stand behind his leader will have his team standing behind him on Saturday. All signs indicate that the face of the 2009 Cavaliers will be the starting quarterback -- even the sign on Route 29.

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