Blue Bomber Report Record: 3–1–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't count out former NFLer as QBs battle for backup position

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Dallas Cowboys legend Danny White is on the line with a reporter on Wednesday and he's offering some unsolicited advice to Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Tim Burke about one of the newest Bombers players, Max Hall.

"If you don't want him to be your starting quarterback," White begins, "then you'd better not ever let him get in a game. Because all he'll do is go down the field and score.

"It might not look pretty, but he'll get it done. That's Max."

That's high praise indeed from a man who played 13 seasons for the Cowboys from 1976-88, winning a Super Bowl in 1978 as the Cowboys punter and backup to legendary QB Roger Staubach before taking over the starting QB job and leading Dallas to three straight NFC Championship games.

So why is a Cowboys legend -- and the iconic club's current radio analyst -- taking such an interest in Winnipeg's quarterback situation?

Well, in addition to being a keen student of the game, White is also the uncle -- and unabashed biggest fan -- of Hall.

And he thinks the solution to the Bombers' never-ending quarterback problems was right before our very eyes on Wednesday as Hall took the field at Investors Group Field for the start of rookie training camp.

"I think he's in a great spot and I think the Blue Bombers are in a great position to capitalize on what Max has learned in this game," said White.

"He can run when he has to run and he's also a lot tougher than he should be. He's one of the toughest players I've ever seen. He just refuses to ever quit or lie down.

"So if that's the style of a Canadian quarterback, that's him. He's certainly got the arm. He's just got to learn the Canadian game -- all that motion and all that. But once he's got that, I think he's the perfect Canadian quarterback."

Hall certainly has all kinds of pedigree. In addition to boasting White as his uncle, his grandfather is Wilford (Whizzer) White, a collegiate great who still holds a piece of some rushing records at Arizona State and who went on to play for the Chicago Bears in the early 1950s.

Of course, Hall has made his own name in football, too. A standout high school player in Arizona -- he won one state title and lost a second title game in overtime -- he went on to an equally standout collegiate career at Brigham Young.

But a bit undersized -- he's listed, generously, at 6-1 -- and without exceptional speed or arm strength, Hall went undrafted by the NFL in 2010.

But in a storyline that White says Hall has repeated since he was a youngster, Hall overcame the doubters to sign as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals and on October 10, 2010 become the first Arizona native ever to start a game at quarterback for the Cardinals.

It was an auspicious debut as Hall led the underdog Cardinals to a 30-20 win over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints -- one of just five victories the Cardinals recorded all season. Hall went on to start two more games for a hopeless Cardinals squad and was then waived the following summer. He's coached in the intervening two years but hasn't played again -- until now.

Looking back on it, White says Hall never had a fair chance in Arizona in 2010. "Nobody," says White, "could have succeeded in that offence."

All of which brings us to today and yet another story in which Hall is cast as the underdog -- trying to win a job in Winnipeg in an unfamiliar league with unfamiliar rules after two seasons of not having played at all.

Same old story, says White. "He's not real big, he's not real fast, he's not going to blow you away with his physical ability -- there's always been questions about Max. But he just somehow finds a way to get things done."

The fact he's got a guy like White in his corner -- and in his bloodlines -- can only help his cause this spring as he tries to win the backup job to Bombers starter Buck Pierce, says Burke.

"You've got to believe genetics plays a part in a lot of things and he does come from a great football family," says Burke. "And even if it isn't genetic, it's certainly a family heritage and something that you're trying to live up to.

"So I think one of those variables along the way has helped Max."

Hall said Wednesday he was too young to remember much of his uncle's playing career, but White's influence in his own career and on his life has been a constant.

"My uncle Danny has just always been there for me," said Hall, who seems to relish the role of underdog.

"I've heard all the questions about me -- he's not big enough, his arm's not strong enough. But the one thing I have proven is that I can win games and be a leader on the field."

And there's also this little piece of symmetry. "I was just having dinner with my grandpa a couple weeks ago and he was telling me how after he played with the Bears, he played in the CFL for awhile -- with Toronto, I think."

There's also another Canadian connection in the family -- Danny White is married to a Calgarian.

Put it all together and White says he might be one of the fans enjoying a warm summer evening at Investors Group Field this summer.

"I'd love to get up there to see a game," says White. "We love Canada in this family."

paul.wiecek@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2013 D1

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