Breaking news: Max Hall is going to start for the Cardinals on Sunday against the Saints. OK, it's not news anymore. But it is getting a lot of attention and even before the announcement that he would start, there was certainly some noise about having him play, even though he had only played against opposing teams' scrubs in the preseason with some success.
People are excited about his accuracy, but mostly it is the intangible part, the "it factor." Kurt Warner had it. When he played, everyone around him felt obligated to play better. What is the "it" that Hall has? It's hard to pinpoint, but one local radio guy (Ron Wolfley) defines it as knowing that in his head Hall can't be successful but feeling in his heart that he can be.
What makes Max Hall different is his background. He isn't your typical rookie quarterback. He turns 25 this month, so he is a couple years older than most just coming out of college. But it goes beyond age.
Teammates say how fiery and competitive he is. Jason Wright said on Thursday how mature he is, and how he talks to veteran teammates as peers instead of as a scared rookie. He seeks to learn and from day one has prepared under the assumption that he was going to play.
His background is unique. He's a Mormon, but he's hardly the first in the NFL. He lived a regimented life for two years dedicated to sharing his religious beliefs and inviting others to join him. Taking out the religious part of the equation, he had to interact with all sorts of people on a regular basis. He isn't intimidated with his new setting because of this.
As a missionary, he put in 12 hour days doing his "job." He also studied individually and with his companions daily. He was out of the apartment by 9:30 a.m. and was out working hard until 9:30 p.m. Most guys in their early twenties have never even had a full-time job. He's already used to putting in hours of hard work and study. All of this is done with only a little bit of supervision. It is mostly kept up by individual drive and determination.
He likely held leadership positions while on his mission. In such leadership positions, you are responsible for the work and the well-being of other fellow missionaries, and you have to, at times, motivate these young men when they are discouraged or missing home, or just tired. It is comparable to leading a football team late in the game. It is an experience unlike anything that most 19-21 year old guys experience and certainly for most guys leaving college to go to the NFL.
His faith teaches him to trust in his individual worth, which leads him to feel that he can accomplish anything. This is why he started from day one working as if he could start.
In the end, he is unlike any other NFL rookie.
Does that mean he will be the answer to all the Cardinals' ills? That's a completely different question. John Beck, the QB who preceded Hall at BYU, had a similar buzz (but was drafted) about him his rookie year in Miami and a similar background. He didn't do much.
No one knows yet if he will be Kurt Warner or Tom Tupa for the Cardinals. There very well may be valid reasons why he was not drafted by any NFL team.
As for the hype, I get it. He's young, he's different, and he's not Derek Anderson or Matt Leinart. He is intriguing because he's a mature (and old) rookie. Hopefully this "it" that so many feel he has can energize an otherwise boring and exasperating Cardinals team.