SALT LAKE CITY -- In 2010, former BYU quarterback Max Hall was living out a childhood dream, playing for the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. But by 2014, Hall hit rock bottom when he was arrested for shoplifting and narcotics possession.
Now, almost a year later, Hall calls it all a blessing in disguise.
“There’s going to be some stuff in your life that’s going to be hard to deal with,” Hall said. “But how you respond in those situations is what defines you as a person and what develops your character.”
He sat down with FOX 13’s sister station in Phoenix, Ariz. for an exclusive interview.
Eight months sober, Hall recalls the years prior to his arrest as a constant struggle, one that began at the same time as his professional career.
During his rookie season with the Cardinals, Hall started against the defending Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints. During the first half, Hall ran the ball when he was hit by several Saints players. According to him, he blacked out. That moment was the first of many concussions.
“I was scared. I just became the starter. I just won the first game and I was afraid if I told somebody I would lose that,” Hall said.
Instead, Hall managed to pass a medical exam, convincing his coaches he was cleared to play. But another injury, this time to his shoulder, led him to start self-medicating with opiates to get through the season.
“Not only did it take the pain away from my shoulder, it took the stress and the anxiety and the depression away of having this injury and my career being over,” Hall explained. “So, it was really easy to keep taking them.”
However, things became much harder when Hall learned he had been cut from the team after just one season. That was the beginning of a four-year struggle to secretly beat his addiction.
“I would every once in a while relapse and go back to it,” he said. “I kind of isolated myself from everybody. Kept to myself, kept it my secret.”
But Hall’s wife was starting to notice a change in his behavior that became more and more worrisome. When she confronted him about it, Hall admitted to everything.
“We were trying to protect his job. We were trying to protect him. We tried to do it on our own. We tried to fight the battle without anyone really knowing,” said Mckinzi Hall.
Their private battle was made public on Aug. 30, 2014. Hall was caught shoplifting from a Best Buy in Arizona. Police arrested him for the theft, as well as possession of narcotics.
“It was probably one of the worst nights of my life,” McKinzi said, “He’s my husband. I love him and want to do everything I could to keep our family together. The second he said he was going to get help I was right there to get help with him.”
In the days following his arrest, Hall turned off his phone and tried to avoid everyone outside his immediate family.
“When that first happened I wanted to dig a hole and lay in it,” Hall said.
But a few days later, Hall heard from two former coaches and a professor at BYU, offering their help. Not soon after, Hall was on a plane to Utah, where he would spend the next several months in recovery.
“I was devastated,” said former BYU quarterback coach, Brandon Doman.
For four years, Doman spent nearly every day working with Hall on the football field at BYU. The two stayed close after his departure from the school, but it wasn’t until the arrest that Doman learned of Hall’s addiction.
“Max Hall, Max is a winner. The guy that I know is a complete battler. He’s overcome adversity, probably better than any quarterback I’ve seen,” Doman said. “And this is the hardest battle that he’s had to face, without question.”
Hall is now feeling stronger and healthier than he has in years. While he still has a long road of recovery ahead of him, he’s traveling it with his family and friends.
“There’s going to be some stuff in your life that’s going to be hard to deal with,” said Hall. “But how you respond in those situations is what defines you as a person and what develops your character.”