Senior Chris Hale spent the first three years of his college career at BYU playing wide receiver. This year Hale will be playing cornerback under Defense Coordinator and Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall.
Hale was first recruited to BYU as a cornerback out of Orem High School during the Lavell Edwards era. Following an injury to former wide receiver Sorran Holiday, Hale went to Coach Edwards and had a talk with him on how he could help the team situation.
“The idea was for me to gray shirt in 1999,” said Hale. “I wasn’t even supposed to play before my mission. I just went to Coach Edwards and said, ‘Hey if it means I get to play this year I’ll gladly play wide receiver for you.’”
Now with BYU looking to add depth at the cornerback position in 2005, Hale will put aside the glory of catching passes and scoring touchdowns to once again heed the call of putting the interest of the team first. Coach Mendenhall is very pleased, not only with his early progression as a cornerback, but also with his willingness to do what ever it takes to help the team.
“I like him,” Mendenhall said. “He’s smart, he’s tough, he’s fast, he’s quick and he just needs some experience. I told him today before practice that I was very pleased with his first day and it’s need based. When I asked him if he would move and he said, ‘Coach will it help the team?’ What else can you expect? That’s the first time I’ve ever heard that.
“I want these guys to play exactly where they feel they belong and I’ll never move a player if they don’t feel like that’s not where they feel they should be.”
For Hale, getting used to “running backwards and changing directions more” is what comes with the position change. Being a former receiver, Hale knows the little “tricks of the trade”, and once he gains more experience playing in the cornerback position the things that are most difficult will soon become natural.
“Well, it helps to know some of the wide receiver tricks they try to use, so you’ve got your eye out looking for those things, but at the same time it might be a disadvantage because you’re thinking too much rather than reacting,” said Hale.
“It’s been what, about 6 years since I’ve actually played [cornerback] in a game,” Hale said. “It’s coming back little by little. I’ve obviously got a lot of technique stuff to work on, but if I can work on my assignment and at least know what to do, the technique will come. I’ve just got to be patient and not let my perfectionist attitude get in the way.
“Mechanically it’s pretty much the same but it’s a different mind set. On offense as a receiver you’re more of a finesse guy making moves and stuff like that. On defense you got to be more aggressive and go make plays. I’ve just got to work on my technique and get used to it, I think.”
In retrospect, the comparisons from switching from last years’ offense to this years’ defensive unit has changed Hale’s mental game. Going from passive aggressive style to the more aggressive and effort-driven mentality.
“The pace is a lot quicker and a lot more effort based,” said Hale. “On offense you worry about timing and technique and distances. Whereas on defense you just want to be working hard and giving it your all and giving a great effort. You’re going to be making plays simply from working hard.”
Having made the change to defense after developing close ties with his former wide receiver teammates over the past three years hasn’t changed Hale’s personal connection with his former comrades. His personal closeness with his former teammates has taken on a new personal twist.
“I sat in the meeting room with these guys for three years joking around and laughing with them and stuff like that, and now I’m standing across with them and being their competitor,” Hale said. “It’s fun because I have a good relationship with them but at the same time you don’t want them to beat you because you know them personally, and they’re going to come up to you and rouse you afterwards.”