Jalen Hall is a 6-foot-4, 183-pound monster on the outside. If Freddy Krueger was a defensive back, he wouldn’t sleep at night the week leading up to playing Hall. The Los Angeles (Calif.) Augustus Hawkins receiver has size, speed and an ability to go get the ball.
But Hall’s best quality might be his relentless pursuit to be the best.
He’s only a sophomore, but he is willing to put himself up against any receiver in the country. He has the potential to be the top receiver in his class, if not the nation. And that’s a title he does not shy away from. He wants it.
“I’m number one right now. That's just how I feel,” Hall said. “I feel I'm No. 1. I mean that's why I wear No. 1. I practice like I'm number one. I do everything like I'm number one. And when I go to college, I want to wear No. 1.
“When I go to the NFL, I want to wear No. 1. It might not happen, but I'm going to try to wear No. 1 though because that's just me. I think I'm the best at what I do and I'm going to try to perfect it as much as possible.”
Hall knows there are plenty of other talented high school wideouts in the country that could vie for the top receiver spot, including his own teammate, 2017 five-star Joseph Lewis. He isn’t a prima donna about it. He knows he has flaws. For one, he is working to improve his consistency.
“I might catch a bomb and then drop the next one, an easy pass. I always catch the hard passes, but for the most part I catch everything. That's what I'm going to try to do because like I said I want to be the best.”
He doesn’t take his skills for granted. There is no mantle to rest his laurels upon. It’s day in and day out work. In two high school seasons, Hall has already scored 22 touchdowns and accumulated nearly 2200 receiving yards.
This past season, he averaged six catches for 101 yards and nearly a touchdown per game. While he was given natural talents, Hall doesn’t simply fall back on those. He’s confident in everything he does and feels like anyone that matches up with him is destined for a defeat.
“I grind for it. A lot of people say whatever I do is just given to me but it's not. They don't see the work I put in off the field. I grind in school. I just try to grind in everything I do. That's just what I was taught to do.
“I didn't grow up just having stuff given to me. You have to earn it and I'm trying to earn it. I'm trying to get to the next level, the highest level.”
Hall does currently have one big advantage that many other top-tier receivers don’t — Lewis.
With Lewis often lined up beside him on the same side of a formation, teams don’t have the option of double teaming Hall. The dynamic duo are constantly learning from one another and have a constant stream of communication about what they are seeing from the defense and the technique being used by individuals defensive backs.
“We see how they want to cover us or like how the DBs going to play,” Lewis said. “So like when I'm not there, he can know how the next DB up is going to play. But we've got a very strong relationship.”
“Me and Joseph, that's family right there man,” Hall said. “Basically, we get each other better and when we’re on the same side, they definitely can’t double team us. Even if they do, we’re going to get open because that’s what good receivers do.”
Hall is a big fan of competition, which is a regularity at Hawkins High and on the B2G Five-Star Elite 7-on-7 team he plays for. He and Lewis try to one up each other all the time.
“We compete every day in practice...to see who can cook a DB the best,” Lewis said.
They get great looks while facing off with highly touted defensive back prospects Marcus and Greg Johnson and Aashari Crosswell each day at Hawkins while top Southern California prospects Max Williams and Brandon McKinney are added to the Hawkins crew in the B2G secondary.
Some high-profile receivers may not like that they could easily get locked down in a high school practice. For Hall, it’s fun because he knows he is getting better with every rep.
“Sometimes you are getting locked. Sometimes you're running that corner up. It's all competition you know. We all make sure we work hard,” Hall said. “We make sure we go at it every practice. Even in school, we make sure we go hard at each other like 'I bet I have a higher GPA than you.' There's competition in everything we do.”
There will also be plenty of competition for Hall from college programs. He said he has watched how the recruitments of Lewis and Greg Johnson have been playing out over the course of the last year and knows he is going to have a difficult decisions in front of him over the next 22 months.
Ultimately, he’ll lean on the experiences he and his teammates encounter throughout the recruiting process before making one school very happy to secure his signature on National Signing Day in 2018.
“Recruiting will be a little hard for me to choose the school I'm going to. It's kind of stressful,” Hall said. “But I see how it is going for [Lewis] and Greg. They are basically telling me everything that they are doing.
“When they talk to coaches, they just let me know what they're talking about or whatever it is. When Joseph is talking to coaches about routes, he lets me know stuff. They know some stuff I don’t. I look up to them dudes for real though.”
Hall doesn’t want to make a wrong decision and then have to retract his choice, so he plans to make his selection known during a ceremony on National Signing Day rather than making an early commitment. He wants to make sure of his choice by taking all of his official visits, researching and getting to know all the programs interested in him — of which there are plenty.
One of those is USC.
The Trojans are the hometown team with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum being just barely two miles away from Hawkins High. Hall and his Hawkins teammates have been on campus a couple of times this spring for unofficial visits. Hall lives “like two minutes away” and definitely will be considering if USC is the best choice for him.
“If that’s in my best interests, that's what I would do,” Hall said. “If I ever feel like I just want to stay home, I know USC is right there. I'm cool with Coach Tee [Martin] and all that. I'm trying to get to know the head coach a little bit more.
“As a receiver, I know they throw the ball a good enough times for me and I don't mind blocking either sometimes. USC is cool. I like it. I wouldn't mind going there, If that's what it comes down to, I’m all for it. That's always going to be in my [top] choices.”
But Hall has a long time before making his final selection. Until then he’s focused on being the best and that means it’s going to be a long two years for L.A.-area defensive backs.