Bryce Perkins and Bryce Hall each learned to adapt to changing circumstances during their college football careers. For Perkins, a neck injury and a three-school journey eventually led to a starting job and a starring role at Virginia. For Hall, a serious ankle injury ended his senior season early and he shifted into a player-coach role as he started that recovery process.
Now, they’re both having to put those adaptation skills to work in a totally different light.
With sports at a halt in the United States due to the coronavirus outbreak, NFL teams have pulled their scouts from the road and colleges have cancelled pro day workouts around the country. Hall got a chance to meet with teams at the NFL Combine prior to those decisions, but additional meetings and demonstrating further improvement on the rehabilitation curve won’t occur in person. Perkins planned to participate in pro day at both Arizona State, his initial college choice prior to the neck injury, and UVA but both of those opportunities were cancelled.
Both players said that video conferences have become part of the process now with the NFL Draft scheduled for next month. Hall described how strange it was to break down his own film on another screen through his phone screen, a blurry look at best. Perkins said teams are doing more board work with him since they can’t see him throw in workouts – what would do you see in this coverage and what’s your read type of questions. While back home in Arizona, Perkins slid over to his old high school Chandler High and made a movie style video trailer with a variety of throws to make that available to teams.
Ultimately, though, both Hall and Perkins trust that the lost workouts and face-to-face meetings will not matter as much as the game film from their Cavalier careers. Hall didn’t allow a catch in 52 press coverage snaps prior to his injury according to Pro Football Focus and is still considered a potential first round pick. Perkins set school records for total offense in a single season with 3,603 yards and touchdowns with 34 combined passing and rushing.
“I think scouts and what I’ve been hearing from a lot of coaches is that they realize the status that I’m at so they’ve been really paying attention to my film and going over my film a lot,” Hall said. “I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a bunch of coaches at the combine and also have had a couple of meetings set up with other coaches. I feel like they’ve had a chance to get to know me and know what I’m about. I think at the end of the day, the film speaks the most.”
Perkins echoed the film thoughts and said he turned his focus to making sure he’s as ready as possible when the chance comes with an NFL team. He picked up some added motivation fuel for the preparation process earlier this year. None of the senior all-star games chose him for participation and he didn’t get an NFL Combine invite either, a process based on votes from organizations.
Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall said last week that the NFL and those senior games “quite frankly, missed and missed badly” by excluding Perkins. The Cavalier standout poured himself into some quarterback training plus some strength and conditioning workouts instead. He went to California for eight weeks early in 2020 and worked with 3DQB, a performance group that also trains with NFL QBs. Perkins said that Jared Goff (Rams), Dak Prescott (Cowboys), and Matt Ryan (Falcons) all had workouts around the same time and watching those players helped him see where he stacks up as a quarterback.
“With me not getting invited to the combine or any senior games at that, not lots of opportunities to come see,” Perkins said. “Especially after the combine, I was motivated to train even harder. Especially that following week, It was like I was training for the Super Bowl. After that, I’ve just got that mindset of playing with a chip on my shoulder and practicing and preparing with that chip on my shoulder because I know I’m going to get my shot and when I do, I’m going to have to make it stick.”
Since then, Perkins has returned to Charlottesville and recently resumed throwing with Joe Reed and Cole Blackman. In addition to the work in California, Perkins also spent time with other strength and conditioning performance trainers. He let fans in on a peak at that work via social media in late February when he released a six-second clip that’s been viewed more than 70,000 times on Twitter. Viewable below, he executed a standing broad jump into a box jump that reached 63 inches. That sort of explosiveness is sure to catch some attention from pro teams.
Without a chance at the combine or pro days, Perkins also has started to compile some Catapult Sports data from his time at UVA. That GPS based system logs speed and other metrics.
“I was surprised when I saw it. I was like ‘There’s no way I can get this’ or if I did get it, it would be one-footed and probably somebody would have to catch me,” Perkins said of landing the big box jump. “The teams and scouts, I’m starting to give them my Catapult numbers so they can get an accurate measurement on my speed and everything like that.”
Standing broad to 60” box jump 酪
— B Perk (@3_ToDaNeck) February 21, 2020
Hall saw the video clip too and summed it up as “insane.”
“Yes, I did see the ridiculous jumping ability by my boy,” Hall said. “I saw it on Twitter. … Yeah, that was insane. Obviously, I saw how freak of an athlete he was at UVA so it didn’t really surprise me.”
Hall, of course, is on the opposite end of that spectrum right now. He dislocated his ankle against Miami on Oct. 11 last season (fibula and a deltoid ligament included, he said) and it’s a long road back to the field. That started with surgery and early rehab work, while also remaining connected with the team as sort of a player-coach. This month, Hall has been cleared to run, cut, and jump. Just before the NFL Combine, a checkup with his doctors said he should be 100% by the time NFL training camps arrive.
The recent progress has been encouraging. Hall is currently in Pensacola, Florida, where he spent his time in rehab and performance development before and after the NFL Combine. He was unable to do physical drill work there obviously, but said he met with teams and their doctors to evaluate his ankle. He also had meetings where teams got a chance to interview him and get to know him better. The feedback was good, Hall said.
The Cavalier corner also talked to former Steeler and Raven Rod Woodson at the combine and tried to soak up wisdom from the NFL Hall of Famer who played defensive back as well.
“It was pretty hectic. … A lot of interviews, a lot of medical tests, and a lot of getting physicals – doctors and stuff like that just checking it out, moving it, seeing how stable it was, doing X-Rays, and things like that,” Hall said. “It was interesting to see how the media works and how the whole process is and how coaches and GMs think and what goes into decisions they make, the kinds of questions and things they’re looking for.”
While Hall answers questions about his health and his rehabilitation progress, Perkins is likely to face the inevitable mobile quarterback question. That came up with reporters earlier this week too. Would he be willing to switch positions in the NFL? Perkins has a level-headed approach to that one. He would want more information, but would be willing to consider it in the right system with the right organization.
“I would have to ask a few questions about the whole thing as far as would this be a permanent change or will this be like a Taysom Hill type role?” Perkins said. “What would give me the best option to make the 53-man [roster]? I’m not opposed to it. I just need to know what they’re planning going into it instead of getting blind-sided so I could prepare a little bit. Not having played any other positions, I’d be real raw and not complete.”
Still, Perkins’ goal is to make it at quarterback. Hill as well as Kurt Benkert, who started out with the Falcons practice squad, are former Mendenhall team players that made it to the pros. Hill came through at BYU, while Benkert played at UVA.
“I can play quarterback and I can play quarterback at a high level, I believe, in the NFL and be a premiere player,” Perkins said. “If I had to do it to make a 53-man roster then I would, but playing quarterback is the first option and I know I could be, I know I will be a great quarterback for someone in the league.”
Perkins proved he could that at the college level for sure. After injuring his neck at Arizona State, he reset his career at the JUCO level with Arizona Western Community College where he helped lead the Matadors to the 2017 NJCAA Championship Game. He threw for more than 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns while completing 63.3% of his passes there.
The next stop came in Charlottesville where Mendenhall said Perkins accelerated the turnaround progress for the program. Perkins led Virginia to back-to-back bowl games and 17 wins in two seasons, which tied another NFL QB Matt Schaub for the most QB wins at UVA. He helped the Cavaliers capture the ACC Coastal Division Championship for the first time and the team earned a trip to the Orange Bowl too. He set the program career record for total offense with 7,910 yards.
He believes he’s entering the NFL at the perfect time. The league is becoming more and more mobile quarterback friendly, while he is on the way up with his own abilities.
“From last year to this year especially, I think I’ve grown the most as a player,” Perkins said. “I’m starting to become that player that NFL teams their quarterbacks to be, especially now with all the mobile quarterbacks coming in and having success. I kind of developed and hit my incline at the right moment.”
Hall has kept a positive mindset throughout his injury and comeback process too. That’s something he’s applying to the needed adaptations going on right now with the coronavirus outbreak as well. He’s staying in touch with family members and is prayerful. He also said that many people working at home or practicing social distancing is an opportunity to see family more in some cases.
For his own situation, Hall is watching a lot of videos to sharpen his mental tools in preparation for a return to the field.
“One of the things that this thing has allowed us to do more is to just have more time,” Hall said. “I’ve been trying to invest in myself mentally. I like to watch a lot of little motivational clips. … I’ve been watching a lot of those little good bits of motivation that really kind of put things in perspective and help you to achieve greatness. I’ve been doing little things like that, just watching things to try to feed my mind and invest in good things.”