Austin Hall made a vow to his parents that he never forgot.
When he was at Collierville High School he told his father, David, and mother, Carol, that he was thinking about walking on to the University of Memphis football team and that “in a few years” he would have a scholarship.
“I put my mind to it and I pushed myself every day. When I got here I was open for anything. My mentality always is if I get an opportunity, I am going to take full advantage of it. Not many get a lot of opportunities,” said Hall.
“Anything thrown at me, I am going to do my best to earn anything I get. My family has inspired me to do a lot of things. A big thing for me is what my parents have given me and what they have worked for. I think my parents earned that and they deserve for me to follow in their footsteps.”
A fifth year senior, Hall will begin his final season on Aug. 31 when the Tigers host Ole Miss in a nationally televised game on ABC.
He got his coveted scholarship in August before going into his redshirt sophomore season in 2017. He joined the team in 2015 as a preferred walk-on. As a redshirt freshman in 2016 he started each game.
Toward his senior year at Collierville he began dreaming of playing at the next level. He has also dreamed of playing in the NFL. He plans to try out.
“I’m working for it. I’ll give it a chance and work my tail off. Since I was a kid, like everyone else, I have have always had that dream. If it happens, it happens,” he said.
Playing different positions on offense and defense, including linebacker and safety, at Collierville, Hall took his versatility and fundamental knowledge to Memphis.
He was all-region, all-Shelby-Metro, all-state, team defensive MVP and voted a lifetime captain. He was coached by former head coach Mike O’Neill.
Hall played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star game in 2014 and received the game’s Harris Jones Courage Award for Leadership.
He didn’t play his ninth grade year and taking the year off made him miss it. He wonders if he would be playing now if he hadn’t taken that break.
At Memphis he plays strong outside linebacker which is also called stud outside linebacker, SAM and hybrid.
In three seasons, 2016-18, he has made 203 tackles (151 solo) and during the 2017 season he was the team’s second leading tackler with a career-high 84 tackles (66 solo). They ranked 19th in the AAC. He has 2.5 career sacks, 3 career interceptions (all during 2017), has defended 14 passes and recovered 4 fumbles.
Hall was in the national spotlight after the Tigers’ 30-27 victory over Navy on Oct. 14, 2017. Calling it his best collegiate game, he had 10 tackles (7 solos, 3 assists), a forced fumble, 2 pass interceptions and a fumble recovery.
He was American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week, Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week. CollegeSportsMadness.com and Paycom Jim Thorpe Player of the Week.
“It was a big game for us, not only for me but the whole team. It was at home. It was our first win ever over Navy. It was rocking. I’ll never forget that. It was an awesome time,” said Hall.
It was his second AAC and Nagurski award, winning it after he made 12 tackles (10 solo) and a fumble recovery against Tulane on Oct. 14, 2016.
“Coming here from Collierville I never imagined playing for Memphis. My cousin (Brian Hall) played here and that was awesome. I got here, walked on and worked my way up to be a decent player. I’m very thankful to God. He has blessed me,” said Hall.
“People call me a leader but a lot of times I’m by example. I’m that type of guy. I am a good standard-setter. I was a freshman and looked up to other leaders who showed me the way and now it is my turn as a senior. What I can bring to the table is what is the standard at Memphis. They can look at me and know what is right on and off the field.”
Defensive back Colton Cochran, a redshirt junior who played at St. Benedict, said that he sees Hall taking a bigger leadership role this season and “doing a lot of great things.”
Former Collierville teammate Tyler Garvey, a redshirt freshman linebacker, called Hall’s impact on the team “huge.”
“He is very detailed in what he does. He is a smart guy. He is athletic, versatile. He shows me how to work and develop myself as a person and as an athlete.”
Hall has always been a role model to redshirt freshman quarterback Brady McBride.
“He is someone I have looked up to, how he has carried himself on and off the field and the presence he has around the guys.”
Wide receiver Hunter Hill, a redshirt junior who played at Briarcrest, said that Hall is a man of many strengths.
“He is awesome at everything. He is a great player, great leader, awesome guy.”
During the 2017 season, Hall had 12 multi-tackle games, 8 tackles for loss (second on the team) and his 3 interceptions tied for the team lead and led in fumble recoveries (6th in the ACC) and was second on the team in quarterback hurries.
“That was one of my best years I’ve had so far. That was the year I grew as a player. I had that mindset that I had played before. I knew what I could do.,” said Hall, who wants teammates to see him as consistent, an example and a player who gets the job done.
Effective linebackers can make tackles anywhere, are “big play makers” in the box and outside the box he said.
“Any player with effort shoots for the ball, doesn’t loaf and doesn’t make mental mistakes. If they make mistakes they are going full speed.”
Hall (6-3, 215) is grateful to be in the place he is.
“I’ve had some great role models in Coach (Joe) Lorig and Coach
(Chris) Ball. Those two guys took me under their wing and taught me a lot of stuff, not just about football but about life that you can apply on the field and off. I praise those two guys.
“Coach Loring and Coach Ball really helped me with my game not just the fundamentals of being a good player, the mindset of football. I can bring that to a good football team. They taught me a lot of how to imply my knowledge on the field and how that can give you a step forward even if you are not the best athlete.”
Now special teams coordinator and defense assistant coach at Penn State, Lorig was special teams coordinator and outside linebackers coach at Memphis from 2016-18.
Ball is now head coach at the Northern Arizona University and was defensive coordinator at Memphis from 2016-18.
The defense forced 81 turnovers during those three seasons which was fourth in the FBS.
This season Hall wants to improve footwork, getting his pad level low which would mean getting lower for more leverage and exploding up and through the defense to finish runs or breaking through tackles.
He also wants to play more in the box, work on pass rushing and getting to the quarterback more increasing his number of sacks.
“Everybody is looking for improvement. I can improve anything,” he said.
During spring practice the team wore shirts with the motto “Show Me.”
“Show me what you do every day. Focus on today and move forward, one percent better every day. Show me mentality when you step on the field. Who are you going to show what kind of guy you are?” he said.
Hall has showed what he can do academically.
He has been All-Academic All-AAC in 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18 and made the Dean’s List in Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters. He is a Tiger Scholar (3.0 GPA or higher).
A criminal justice major, Hall graduated in August 2018 with a 3.6 GPA. He is working on a Master’s degree in public administration. His ultimate goal is to be a U.S. Marshal if the NFL does not work out. He has also thought about being a policeman, a district attorney or working for the FBI.
In June 2020 he will marry fiance Kayla Cunningham, who has lived down the street from him in Collierville all his life and whom he met in the 6th grade. She is a student at Memphis.
Hall is the face of the 2019 Tiger football schedule poster. On his outstretched left biceps is a tattoo of the eye of a tiger.
“I’ve always dreamed of being on there. It was a good picture of me, just some glory. I guess they need to take more pictures of me like that,”he said.
It is not his only tattoo. When he was a freshman he got “Prove Them Wrong” and his first tattoo, which is on his back, is a cross with the face of Jesus and the words “King of Kings” and “Lord of Lords.”
He has a tattoo on his leg, Philippians 2:10-11, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...”
“Jesus is my savior. He is everything,” said Hall, a member of First Baptist Church of Collierville where he was baptized in the 5th grade.
He recently joined a team Bible study taught by assistant strength coach Preston Scott. Running
back Patrick Taylor Jr., wide receiver Calvin Austin III and Cochran are among players who attend with Hall.
“God has blessed me with a lot. I can say that over and over again. God has placed me here for a reason. Everything happens for a reason. Being with some of the guys and reading the Word, my purpose for my faith is to share the gospel. What I am doing is taking advantage of that, sharing the Word with other people. I have taken that from the Bible study,” said Hall.
“God really helped me and my family. Thank goodness for Him. I wouldn’t be here without Him.”
And he wouldn’t be playing football if it were not for the vow of desire.
“Anybody who plays football has a love for the game and the love of the game.”