Rookie quarterback Max Hall gets fired up after a play during his first start.
The Cardinals will follow Max Hall. That already is obvious.
Understanding why they will follow the quarterback is more nebulous.
"He's 29 years old, man," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's the oldest rookie in the history of the NFL. He's been on his mission for about 10 years, then he went back to BYU, he went to ASU, he was a sixth-year senior out here at Mountain View. He's been at it for a long time."
Fitzgerald smiled as he exaggerated. Hall is more mature, a 25-year-old with a wife and child. But he is still a rookie. He has yet to truly prove himself on the NFL level.
Yet that doesn't seem to matter.
"There are certain people, when they walk into a room, they could be the newest person there, but when they speak, they speak in a certain way and they come across with a certain air, and you are going to listen, even if they are the brand-new guy," running back Jason Wright said. "Even if they are completely dead wrong in what they are saying, you still say afterward, 'Hmm. What about that guy?'
"Whatever 'it' is, he's got it. He's probably like that in the rest of life too. I expect he's been that way his whole life. That's what guys are talking about. It's more a personality trait than it is having really earned his stripes."
No one around the Cardinals wants to proclaim Hall anything but the quarterback of the moment. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Hall isn't necessarily even the quarterback for the rest of the season, and there are particulars that need to be cleaned up. Hall himself talked about the many near-turnovers he had last game, and he is still heading into only his second NFL start.
Overall optimism, however, seems to be growing.
"I told Max something during preseason … it's the way he plays the game," wide receiver Steve Breaston said. "He reminds me of a lot of other people who played the game. That's one of the biggest things, how he carries out the game plan, how he goes to work, his professionalism. … That's what you need. You need someone like Max to rally behind. Just his story alone, to be undrafted and get a win, what it boils down to is how the whole team played that day."
Tackle Levi Brown noticed it early. Hall's second pass was a poor decision and an interception. Brown said it would have been easy for Hall to tank from there, succumbing to the pressure.
"But he came back out and started swinging, and that alone gets respect," Brown said.
These were intangibles Whisenhunt said Hall first put on display over the summer and into training camp. Teammates noticed. Wright said Hall has been a "stabilizing force," someone to see the big picture and allowing the rest of the team to relax a bit and just focus on individual assignments.
It's something that can trickle through a team.
Hall said he doesn't know why his way works. "I work hard and try and put my best foot forward and hopefully the guys feed off that," he said. "I think, so far, they have."
Hall's seriousness comes across, Fitzgerald said. That matters, this 'Let's do this' approach. During the final preseason game, Whisenhunt, quarterbacks coach Chris Miller and Hall were discussing a couple of plays Hall should have executed differently when Hall finally blurted, "There's a lot of things that happened, all right? We got a first down. Let's go. What's next."
"With Max, there's no playing around," Fitzgerald said.
Hall already seems to have developed chemistry with Fitzgerald, who said he already has spent time with Hall away from football.
"Long before he was close to being a starter, we were kickin' it," Fitzgerald said. "He's got a great future. I love playing with him."
If his teammates agree, then it doesn't matter much why Hall creates such a vibe, only that he does.
"For most of the guys on the team who have had success, these first couple games, we realized something was missing," Brown said. "He comes in there and sort of shows us.
"Maybe we weren't playing with as much heart as we used to, or paying attention to little things. Maybe that's what it was. We just needed to see it again."
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