By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Jeff Porcaro (MapleMountainSports) & Kurt Johnson
Editor’s note – The criteria for our male and female athlete of the year are the same as they have been in previous years. We are looking for multi-sport athletes who have excelled at the highest level in at least two sports, and if possible, three sports, during the high school sports year.
In a time when the pressure on young people to specialize in one sport or another is at an all-time high, athletes like Jaren Hall are the exception. He is not just a three-sport athlete, but he excels in all three – football, baseball and basketball.
Hall’s success in all three sports over the course of an amazing four-year high school career, capped off by a sensational senior season, makes him our 2015-2016 Preps Utah/TOSH male athlete of the year.
Sports is a big part of life in the home of Kalin and Holly (Hamilton) Hall. Jaren’s father is a former football player at Brigham Young University and his mother was on the school’s gymnastics team. Their children are gifted athletes and learn many of life’s most valuable lessons through things they experience on the fields of competition.
Two of those sports will continue to be part of Jaren’s life after he returns from his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Roseville, California. In addition to signing a letter-of-intent to play football at BYU, he will also be continuing his baseball career at the school.
With sports as a classroom, the Hall kids have been schooled by their parents about the most important things in life, including the value of doing hard things.
“(They taught us) There’s going to be a time when things will end eventually, but during that time you have to express yourself from a sports standpoint, there’s going to be trials, there’s going to be hard times, everyone who’s played sports has experienced that, but the thing is that you don’t give up,” Jaren said. “You give all you can, you give all you can in the classroom, you give all you can on the field. This life is too short not to go and make the best of it. The only time growth comes is when you struggle and you have these hard times, so when it comes you just go, you take it right in the teeth and just keep going. You give it all you can, don’t quit and always do what you can to get better every day.”
For Jaren, those things have been reinforced by his active participation in the Especially for Athletes program, developed by the same man who has tutored him as a quarterback over the years, Dustin Smith.
“Growing up, all my life, it’s always been in my household, first things first, you’re going to be a good person, then sports will come into place for you,” Jaren said. “That’s exactly what Dustin brought and he brings it with such power that if you are even paying attention, you’ll understand. His program is about us athletes with what he calls ‘the sportlight,’ with all the eyes on us at this time, to make the best of that, not just for playing but being good examples out in the public, being good kids and showing that athletes aren’t what you see in the movies and in the magazines, but we can be good people and make changes off the field as well as on.
“That’s something the last two years that I’ve really taken to heart. At school and in public, I’ve tried to be the best kid I can for my family and for the program also, to represent Dustin and all he’s done.”
That place in the sportlight will go with Jaren as he spends the next two years teaching the people in the California Roseville Mission about Christ. He entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo June 8 and headed to California three weeks later. For him, there was never a doubt that he would set aside his helmets, bat, glove and balls to serve a mission.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind,” Jaren said. “(Dad taught us) Do what you need to do, give back and serve the Lord the best you can. Without Him and His blessings, you wouldn’t have what you have right now, so go out and serve Him the best you can. (Not going) never crossed my mind. I always knew what I wanted to do and I set my mind to it and here I am.”
Athletic competition has taught him many things that he says will go with him as he heads out to serve, but perhaps the greatest lesson is the one that was reinforced in that Week 2 football game this past season, that he is not alone.
“I always reference football because I think football relates to life so much,” Jaren said. “There’s going to be ups and there’s going to be downs, but every time you look left and right, you’re going to have people who are there for you, bringing the best out of others around you, getting through these hard times together.”
Many of those lessons have come for Jaren through his time on the football field. While he has seized every opportunity to work on his game in all three of his chosen sports, his most concerted effort has come in his training to be the best quarterback he can be.
His success there has come with many ups and downs. His senior year on the gridiron started with so much promise but ended with him standing on the sidelines watching his friends compete without him.
“We were 6-1, we should have been 7-0, but that’s the way it goes in high school football,” Jaren said. “We lost one, a tight one, but what do you do?. We were riding high, we were up there and then unfortunately, I got hurt again. It’s funny, the last three years, I’ve never finished a game against Wasatch.
Sometimes statistics are wonderful things, but the numbers don’t really tell the story when it comes to Jaren Hall. You have to watch this 6-foot-1, 210-pound young man play to appreciate who he is as an athlete. The Corner Canyon game, the Springville game the next week that Maple Mountain lost after the Red Devils blocked an extra point, were just two of the many examples when Jaren made big plays in the largest moments.
“As you can tell, he does a great job under pressure and it doesn’t really bother him,” Burtenshaw said the day after that Springville game. “It’s really ideal to have a kid like that at quarterback.
I honestly feel like it’s the way he handles situations. There’s all the things that go into that – the athletic ability, the arm, how he can run, but just being able to handle situations, whether he’s up or down, or we’re behind or the clock’s running. Whatever it is, he just kind of stays the same and just plays his game.”
Two years from now, Jaren will come back to chase his dream to be the starting quarterback at BYU. While some speculate about the possibilities of a position change for an athlete like he is, he says there has never been any discussion with the coaches about anything other than playing quarterback.
He sees the current quarterback situation at BYU, with a pair of outstanding players on the roster for next season and says his playing style falls right in the middle between that of Taysom Hill and Tanner Mangum.
“I’m able to run and I think I’ve shown that in high school, (but) first thing is I see myself as a pocket passer, under center and in the pocket and throwing and I think that’s where I’m at my best, in the pocket and throwing,” Jaren said. “That’s where the playmaking ability comes in. When you’re a mobile quarterback, you’ve got to be able to use that to your advantage as well as having a good arm. Put them together and you’re good, so I always keep my head downfield and my eyes downfield and it worked out for me in a lot of situations.”
The Recruiting Process
After initially committing to BYU during his junior year at Maple Mountain, Jaren got a lot of attention late in the recruiting process and he decided to take a second look around in the months before signing day.
“It (the recruiting process) wasn’t as crazy as most kids,” Jaren said. “I only got two offers and I committed fairly early to BYU. I figure that’s where I wanted to play. It was my junior season and that’s where I wanted to be. I loved the coaches, I loved the atmosphere so I committed and then it kind of died down, things mellowed out. I was playing, in the middle of basketball and baseball was getting pretty serious with the team in the playoffs and everything else.”
Then, with the coaching change at BYU and a new round of attention from other schools, things got a little more intense for Jaren. In the end, he always knew where he wanted to be.
“This last summer, going out to camps and getting back on the field, in the recruiting process and seeing other teams, I realized this is such a big decision for me, for the next five years of my life…it got a little bigger for me,” he said. “I started talking to more schools again and when it came down to crunch time, the coaching change came and that kind of opened me back up. I went back to Utah and here and there, and Arizona State, and it was kind of getting wild again.
“Coach Detmer and Coach Sitake, they came in and sealed it for me. I’ve known Coach Detmer for a couple years, working with Dustin, and Coach Sitake actually offered me from Utah, so I had a fairly good relationship with him prior to, and it kind of sealed it for me, how great of guys they are and I lucked out and got the best quarterback coach in the nation.”
The Other Sports
Though his primary focus has been on football, Jaren finds that the three sports have much in common. He has learned the value of confidence and consistency and of controlling his emotions.
“There’s a lot of people, a lot of my close friends ask me, ‘Why do you never show emotion? You’re never too high or you’re never down. It just looks like you’re mad all the time,'” Jaren said. “It’s like I’m focused, I’m concentrating. I feel like I play a significant role in all the sports, in being a leader and a team captain, that’s just something I have to do. Being an example on the field and keeping my head at all times, I think that fits into all of my sports, just being a leader and keeping my emotions where they need to be so I can focus and concentrate and not let myself get carried away.”
Jaren thinks people would be surprised to hear that the most fun he had in game competition during his high school career actually came on the basketball court.
“Basketball is just a different game,” Jaren said. “It’s five guys, it’s constantly going, back and forth, there’s no stopping. It’s a game where you have to be so mentally into it.”
While he has always loved baseball, the realization that he could have more of a future in that sport came to Jaren kind of late. It’s one of the reasons he loves the idea of being a multi-sport athlete.
“If you love to do something, go do it,” Jaren said. “I’ve seen through my own experience that all three sports I played all benefit each other, one way or another. Playing one sport and perfecting your craft in that, that’s great if that’s what you want to do, but you never know what doors are going to be opened for you, like me.”
Jaren’s baseball skill set fits the “five-tool player” description that has been used to describe players who are outstanding at five distinct areas of the game – hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding and throwing. That said, what he loves most about the game is the brotherhood that exists in the game, particularly with his team at Maple Mountain.
“Each player contributes such a great amount,” he said. “There’s not one guy you see. If you read the newspapers throughout the whole year, you’re never going to see the same guy’s name. Each and every week there’s a different guy who’s included in those papers and contributing to our wins. If some guy’s having a bad game, the next guy’s going to step up and it’s been that way consistently.”
So what does the future hold for Jaren Hall?
“Last year there came a point where me and my dad sat down, I was having a pretty good year and I was really loving baseball,” Jaren said. “We had a conversation and he said, ‘Son, you never know. There could come a time when you come back and play college baseball and however this senior season goes, you could get drafted possibly.’
“Who knows what could happen, but I’ve always thought growing up, and with all the work I’ve put in the last four years with Dustin (at Quarterback Elite), I’ve thought the NFL was one thing I wanted. That’s definitely my goal, to continue past college in football or baseball. I think that’s there for me to choose and it’s mine to go get.”
Jaren has big dreams but also seems well grounded with a perspective when it comes to the role of sports in his life.
“There’s adversity in all things, life and sports,” he said. “The fact that we can come together and help each other out, it means a lot and it shows that there’s a lot of good behind that. It’s not just to go out and be highlighted just to feel good about yourself, but there’s growth that can come from that and lessons that can be learned when you figure that out.
“Sports is my life. I don’t mean to say that in a way that it shows that’s all I care about, but sports have taken me where I am as a person in all the growth I’ve received, and as an athlete,” he said. “It’s opened a lot of doors for me, and that’s where my future’s going to be the next five or hopefully 10 or 15 years from now. I can’t imagine a day when sports are going to end, although I know they will. That will be a sad day, but right now I’m going to continue to love and enjoy them and give them all I can because I really do love them and they’ve given me so much.”