Austin Hall began his college football career with Memphis as a walk-on. Fast forward a few years later, and the versatile defender is preparing for the NFL Draft.
Memphis finished the year with an impressive 12-2 record and defeated Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game. Hall registered 75 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions this past season.
Over the course of his career with the Tigers, Hall had 278 tackles, six fumble recoveries, five sacks and five interceptions. Not only has he excelled on the field, he’s been named to the American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team multiple years.
With the NFL Draft a little over two months away, we spoke to Hall to discuss his time at Memphis and how he’s preparing for the next chapter of his football career. Let’s get this interview started.
The Spun: I noticed you graduated with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice back in 2018. How important do you find the academic aspect of the college experience?
Austin Hall: Yeah, I think school is just as important as football – if not more. Football is going to end one day, so having a degree or possibly getting my masters, while playing a sport you love is something that just not a lot of people can do. I walked on and earned that right. I made it a little easier for my parents, so they didn’t have to help me out with college fees. It’s just a blessing. Like I said, you play a sport you love, and you get a free education out of it. There’s no reason not to try to get as much out of it as you can. So that’s just as just as important – if not more – than football.
The Spun: What was your favorite moment from your career at Memphis?
AH: There’s a bunch. Winning the AAC Championship is probably one of the best ones for sure. We went three times in a row to the championship game. We fell short the first two times but came through this past year. We knew what it took as a team to get there, we just had to keep taking more steps to win the thing. We had a great year, had a hiccup in the middle of the season with a loss, but we overcame that. I think we were more prepared this past year than ever before. This was one of the best years I’ve ever been a part of Memphis for sure, and I’ll never forget that.
Can’t put into words how much this team means to me. The last 5 years have been incredible and I have learned so much. A lot of time, me and my brothers spent to make this incredible season happen. Thank you Memphis for helping making my college career so memorable! 25💙 pic.twitter.com/LLp1Bmpqtj
— Austin Hall (@hallaustin_25) December 29, 2019
The Spun: When do you think we’ll see a team from the American Athletic Conference make the College Football Playoff?
AH: Man, I think our conference is one of the best for sure. We got some top teams that are always competing against Power Five team, and they’re competing well. We’ve had some wins against some big teams. UCF and Cincinnati are really good teams, and obviously us (Memphis) as well. I think we have one of the most powerful conferences for sure, and we consider ourselves in the ‘Power Six’. I think our conference is continuing to grow and we’re getting some great players from all around the world to play in the AAC. I don’t think it’s going to die down anytime soon. If we want to showcase ourselves as one of the best conferences, we have to get more wins against big teams.
The Spun: What can Memphis fans expect from Ryan Silverfield as the head coach?
AH: Coach Silverfield came in with Coach Norvell in his first year. I trust him more than anybody else for the job. Me personally, I could probably vouch for a lot of people that are still on the team now. And I wish I had one more year to play for him, but I’m excited for him, the staff that he put together and all the players that have been there with me. He’s fired up, he’s an enthusiastic coach for sure and he’s got a lot of experience from the NFL and college. I believe he’s going to do a phenomenal job, and I’m looking forward to it.
Ryan Silverfield walked by all the Memphis fans thanking them after the game.
The record book will say differently but his head coaching career at Memphis didn’t start with a loss. pic.twitter.com/yIssBfcuUh
— Jessica Benson (@Local24Jessica) December 28, 2019
The Spun: You spent your college career with Mike Norvell. Do you think he’ll be able to revitalize Florida State?
AH: Coach Norvell is an awesome coach and awesome man. It’s not all about just football with him. He believes in pushing education for students and getting your degree. When you got a hundred guys on a team it’s hard to keep everybody accountable, but I think he does a phenomenal job with the way he coaches. He’s just got the right idea of everything. He approaches everything with a go-getter attitude. His philosophy has definitely helped me on the football field, but it’s also helped me in the classroom and day-to-day life. So, I think he’s going to do an awesome job there (Florida State) as well.
The Spun: Which position are you leaning toward playing in the NFL: linebacker or safety?
AH: That’s a tough question because honestly, I’m not really even sure. I’ve dropped down in some weight. I’m really trying to focus on building strength and getting a little bit lighter. Being a college student, it might be a little hard to eat healthy, but I’m just making sure I’m putting the right things in my body. As for my position, I’m versatile. I can do a lot of things for sure. I’m willing and open to play any position. If I need to put more weight on and play linebacker, I will. Honestly right now, could definitely see myself at this weight playing at strong safety down in the box.
The Spun: Would you say your versatility is your greatest asset, or is it something else?
AH: I’ve done a lot of things at Memphis with my versatility, but I think the biggest thing for me is my mental aspect of the game. This past year was probably one of the most challenging. I moved to like a full-time linebacker role where I played inside and outside. I was constantly changing positions there in the game as well. I always had to keep in mind where I was at and what I had to specifically call out for the defense. And that can be challenging, especially when you’re trying to have some pre-snap awareness and all that stuff. But yeah, I think I grew over these past few years as a football player.
— Memphis Football (@MemphisFB) October 20, 2019
The Spun: Who’s the best offensive player you’ve faced in the AAC?
AH: James Proche from SMU is one of them. He kind of reminded me of Anthony Miller a little bit. Obviously, Anthony Miller is an incredible player and teammate. Proche actually wore the same number as Anthony, so it was kind of funny to watch him play. They literally move the same – which is weird – but I think he’s a really special player that I’ve competed against. One of the best quarterbacks I’ve faced was Quinton Flowers. He was awesome playing against. I only played against him in my redshirt freshman year. He was amazing that year. Those would be the two offensive players that stuck out to me.
The Spun: What is an NFL team getting if it selects Austin Hall?
AH: Just give me an opportunity and I’m going to run with it. Like I said earlier, I’m one of the smartest players that’s going to be on the field. I’m definitely one of the hardest working guys. I came out of high school and walked on at Memphis. I knew I could play Division I and I knew that from the start, and I spoke it into existence. I’ll say it right now, I can play in the NFL. I definitely see myself having a big role right off the bat. Whatever it is, just give me an opportunity and I’ll run with it. I’m going to bring my hard work and dedication to the game with me. I just need that opportunity.
Hall won’t be at the upcoming NFL Combine, but he’ll have the chance to showcase his skills to scouts at his pro day.
Scouts have raved about Hall’s versatility, which makes sense since he can play linebacker or safety. It’ll be interesting to see which coach selects him and what their vision will be for him.