And now, getting to know two people you need to know:
Who Is Max Hall?
This is what you need to know about Max Hall, who -- you heard it here first -- will start at least one game at quarterback for Arizona this fall:
a. He is Danny White's nephew.
b. He's the grandson of Arizona Sports Hall of Famer Wilford White.
c. As a three-year starting quarterback for Brigham Young, he once threw seven touchdown passes in a game (against UCLA in 2008).
d. He threw 94 touchdown passes in his BYU career, 38 more than Steve Young did for the Cougars.
e. Hall served seven months as a Mormon missionary in Des Moines, the same city in which Kurt Warner played Arena Football. He played no football in 2005 or 2006.
f. After a game against bitter BYU rival Utah last year, Hall said he hated the Utes. "I hate everything about them. I hate their program. I hate their fans. I hate everything.'' So this year, a clothing line of "Max Hall Hates Me'' shirts came out in Utah. Very popular among the Utes, I'm told. Want one? Here you go.
g. He had more career wins at BYU, 32, than any of the great quarterbacks who preceded him -- Jim McMahon, Young, Ty Detmer.
h. More than once, disgusted with his play on a particular pass in a game, Hall called one or more of his BYU receivers and asked to meet them late at night to get the play right, according to columnist Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic.
i. From the Phoenix suburb of Mesa, Hall was given the "Arizona Cardinals High School Player of the Week'' award in 2003 after accounting for 34 points in a Mesa Mountain View High game.
j. He had the best camp of any of the four Cardinal quarterbacks in Flagstaff this summer.
Matt Leinart got cut because his coach didn't trust him to win over the locker room, and he didn't trust his decision-making on the field. True story: Whisenhunt was likely to keep Leinart around this year, and to keep Hall on the practice squad for the year, until he saw him in offseason camps and in this summer's training camp. He thought Hall was certainly ready to play now, and more suited to run the offense than Leinart was after three years in Whisenhunt's offense.
It's not just the X's and O's. Late in the first half of the final preseason game Thursday night against Washington, Hall was driving the Cardinals. On one play, he missed an open receiver, the check-down safety receiver, in his progression. And on another play, he took a big hit trying to get a couple of extra yards, instead of going down and protecting himself. When he came over for the two-minute warning, Hall got an earful from Whisenhunt. "Look, you can't miss that checkdown!'' Whisenhunt yelled. "And you can't take a big hit like that! Think out there!''
Hall fired back at him: "OK, it happened! I screwed up! Fine! Let's move on!''
By Saturday, Whisenhunt smiled just thinking about it. "You know who that reminds me?'' he said to me over the phone.
"Kurt Warner,'' I said.
"Kurt Warner, that's right,'' he said. "That's something Kurt would have done. Look, I don't know how this will work out. None of us do. I know he's not the ideal size for a quarterback. But Kurt was only an inch or two taller. Max is Drew Brees' size. His decision-making process is well above ordinary for any level of football. That's what makes him so intriguing.''
Who is Arian Foster?
In 2007, Ryan Grant entered the year as training-camp filler for the Giants and ended up a major playoff factor for the Packers. In 2008, Steve Slaton, a late-third-round pick, rode a hot spurt to finish sixth in the NFL in rushing. Last year, Cleveland's Jerome Harrison basically had a fantasy season down the stretch, running for 286 yards in Kansas City and, for the season, outrushing Joseph Addai with 25 fewer carries.
This year, the breakthrough running back could be the Texans' Arian Foster. On the road for much of the past month, I bet I got approached by 50 fans asking me for fantasy advice. (No! Don't take it!) I had a few pet names -- running back Ryan Mathews (easy), and wideouts Mike Wallace (all-around) and Denver receiver Eric Decker (touchdowns). But the guy who could have more value than all of them is Foster.
The 2009 undrafted free agent out of Tennessee has grabbed the starting job with no strings, and with the fleet Ben Tate on IR after a preseason injury, I expect Foster to put up silly numbers in an offense that fits him perfectly. He's the kind of one-cut-and-get-upfield runner the Denver disciples running Houston's offense (coach Gary Kubiak, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison) love, and at 6-1 and 225, he has the kind of power to break tackles and keep the chains moving.
Very interesting story. Foster was a star running back at Tennessee when, after his junior season, he petitioned the NFL to see where he was likely to be drafted. Second round, the answer came back. Foster decided to stay at Tennessee for the 2008 season. Disaster ensued. It was Philip Fulmer's last year, the program collapsed, Foster fumbled too much, and his stock dropped. At Senior Bowl practices after the season, he pulled a hamstring. He couldn't run at the combine, wasn't ready to run at his pro day and, rushing to get healthy so he could work out for teams before the draft, never allowed the hammy to get healthy. Consequently, he failed to run a decent 40.
On draft weekend, figuring he wouldn't get picked as the seventh round wound down, he had four teams interested in him as a free agent: New Orleans, Houston, Tampa Bay and the Jets. As he got on the phone with each, his girlfriend, Romina Reinhart, went online and found the depth chart of each team to see what the competition would be like.
"Oh, she's a good one,'' Foster said, laughing. "She was working hard, finding each depth chart. I'm on the phone with the Saints, and she's got their running backs lined up. What it came down to, and not to put anybody down because I respect everyone's ability, is that I thought I had the best chance with Houston. When I was growing up in San Diego, I idolized Terrell Davis. He was the same kind of diamond-in-the-rough back as me coming out of college, and he went to the Denver system and it was a great fit for him. I think that system fits my style. Zone-blocking, use your vision as a back, get a feel for the defense, get upfield. That's the kind of runner I am.''
Foster earned a spot on the Houston practice squad, and when injuries and Steve Slaton's fumble-itis hit late in the season, he was promoted. In the final two games of the season, he rushed for 216 yards and thrust himself into the Texans' 2010 plans. "Just before OTAs started up again,'' he said, "we all got letters from the team with the schedule. And Coach Koob [Kubiak] wrote in my letter, 'The biggest jump for a player in the NFL comes between year one and year two.' That struck me to my core. So I came in focused to become better at every aspect of my game. Everyone wants someone to believe in him, and I feel with me that's Coach Koob.''
Pretty interesting that Foster's on a nickname basis with his boss. Anyway, Foster's a bright kid. Majored in philosophy. Takes pride in expressing himself thoroughly and intelligently. And he realizes that the worst thing he could do now is to feel like he's accomplished something.
"History tells us that any pinnacle you're on, you'll eventually come down,'' Foster said. "My mentality as long as I'm in the NFL will be, I've never arrived. I'll always have a blue-collar attitude in a white-collar world.''
In six days, he'll have a lot to do with whether the Texans can slay the almighty Colts in the season-opener. Foster's come a long way, but don't tell him that.
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