Football

STANZ: Breece Hall’s breakout required putting running the ball aside

Nov 23, 2019; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Breece Hall (28) runs the ball against the Kansas Jayhawks at Jack Trice Stadium. The Cyclones beat the Jayhawks 41 to 31. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Breece Hall had to stop running.

Iowa State’s true freshman tailback loved to run the football, but not in the way you are probably thinking.

It was the week prior to the Cyclones’ road trip to Morgantown, W. Va. where they would square off with the hometown Mountaineers and the four-star recruit had carried the ball just 18 times for 84 yards in the team’s first four games. He had not played in the team’s two-point loss at Baylor a little more than a week earlier.

It was time for the 18-year-old, who enrolled in school a semester early, to stop running the football and worry about… Um… running the ball. So, Hall ejected his copy of Madden 20, powered off his video game console and put the Cowboys’ Ezekial Elliot on the shelf.

A few days later, the Wichita, Kan. native rumbled for 132 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries as the Cyclones dominated West Virginia.

“(The coaches) were always telling me to get in the film room because they know I like to go home, I mean, I’m only 18 so they know I like to play video games and do stuff like that,” Hall, who spoke to the media on Tuesday for the first time since arriving in Ames, said. “I had to learn that all that stuff’s not always important. Football and school, I just really had to manage football and school and put all that other stuff to the side.”

Hall pushed controlling Elliot on the virtual field to the side and started to run more like the two-time NFL rushing champ and the highest-paid professional running back of all-time. He followed up his performance in Morgantown by bolting to 256 all-purpose yards and two scores in a win at Texas Tech.

A pair of scores came the next week in a loss to Oklahoma State then a pair of back-to-back 100-plus-yard performances against Oklahoma and Texas. The third-highest rated running back recruit in Iowa State history finished his debut season with 897 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He added another 252 yards and a score as a receiver.

Breece Hall had put the distractions aside and promptly solidified himself as a rising star.

“The game really started to slow down and so that’s when all that stuff really started to pay off, just the film watching, working harder in practice,” Hall said. “I feel like after my first two series (against West Virginia), I realized like, ‘Wow, this got much easier.’ As the game went along, as the season went along, I just really used that watching film and practicing hard to my advantage. That’s when all the games and stuff started to really slow down for me. I could just start seeing everything.”

The decision to take things more seriously on the football field had come after a conversation Hall had with head coach Matt Campbell. Well, really, multiple conversations.

Hall and Campbell talk a lot — like, weekly — and the Cyclones’ leader had been pushing his young running back to give the important things more time for awhile. He had seen the flashes of the talent that made Hall a prep star at Wichita Northwest compiling back-to-back 2,000 yard rushing seasons, but the consistency it took to make him a regular contributor for the Cyclones was not yet there.

“He knew I wasn’t happy that I wasn’t playing as much and I wasn’t getting a lot of reps and he just told me to keep going, just keep practicing hard, keep taking your reps hard, just keep doing everything hard and keep going, keep doing good in school,” Hall said. “He literally told me that week (before the WVU game) he was like, This might be the week that you get a chance and you go off in a game.’ I got my chance and that’s what happened.”

Now, with Hall’s freshman season in the rearview mirror, he has already turned his attention towards his sophomore year. He is hoping to grow in every area of his game and is doing it with some help sent from former Iowa State star running back David Montgomery.

“When I got here on campus, (Montgomery) was one of the first people to text me. I used to always ask him because he’s a real shifty guy, so I asked him if he could send me some of the clips, just some of the footwork stuff that he would do,” Hall said. “After every game, he would text me and ask how I’m doing, tell me good game. He’s been really supportive. He has open arms all the time.”

I would say he could fire up the console, throw the Madden 20 disc into the slot and run all over the field with Montgomery, but Hall says he is a Cowboys guy.

He loves to run the ball after all.

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared is in his seventh year covering Iowa State football and basketball for Cyclone Fanatic. He worked as the site's intern for three years while studying Journalism in Iowa State's Greenlee School of Journalism. He started as a full-time staff writer in May 2016. He took over as the site's managing editor in January 2020. Jared spent five falls covering Iowa high school football as a reporter for KMA Radio, 1460 KXNO and 1430 KASI.