Few programs will put forward a secondary class in the 2021 NFL Draft as impressive as the one coming out of San Diego State. With three players expected to get drafted this April, their coaching staff is obviously doing something right when it comes to developing quality defensive backs.
One of those players is Darren Hall, a cornerback that recently participated in the Senior Bowl. Hall recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience in Mobile, the big numbers he put up in college, which NFL quarterback he’d love to intercept and what kind of impact he’ll make at the next level.
JM: You had an opportunity to go down to Mobile, Alabama and compete in the Senior Bowl. What was that experience like?
DH: That was an amazing experience. It was great to be around some of the most talented players in the country. To know that I was recognized as one of them, the fact that I was deemed worthy of being there was an honor for me.
JM: The one-on-one reps are especially popular and worth paying close attention to. What did you enjoy about being out there? Were there any receivers that you particularly enjoyed doing battle with?
DH: That’s what I mean when I talk about competing every day. That’s what those practices were like. They were so much fun. We had some great receivers on our team. They all had their own individual skill sets. They were all good at something different. Cade Johnson, he comes from a smaller school as they say, but he was one of the best guys out there. He has great hands and he’s a fine route-runner. I had good battles with everybody there, to be honest with you.
JM: That’s what I like to hear. Did you have a lot of formal meetings out there?
DH: Yeah, I had four hours of formal meetings with all 32 teams. This occurred over several days. It was pretty crazy. I went from team to team, just answering questions the entire time. They really wanted to get to know me on a more personal level. I did a lot of interviews.
JM: Did you get a good vibe from any of the teams in the particular? Do you feel like you really connected with any of them?
DH: I feel like I had a lot of great meetings. The Bengals and Browns definitely come to mind. Some of the west coast teams were great as well, the Rams and 49ers. A lot of the interviews were great. Most of the questions were very general. I received questions about my family, my playing history, injuries, and where I see myself fitting in at the next level. Things of that nature.
It felt like they were just trying to get a better understanding of who we are as players and people. They wanted to see how we understand the game. I think I left a great impression on all 32 teams. I showcased my confidence, how well I understand the game, not just my ability on the field, but with my words as well.
JM: You’re one of several members of the San Diego State secondary that is expected to be drafted this April. What a fantastic group you guys had in that room. Tell me about the camaraderie that existed within that position group.
DH: It was crazy. We could have had five guys drafted this year, but two of them decided to return to school. Three of us decided to enter the draft. We were such a tight group. First-stringers, third-stringers, it didn’t matter. We were all super close. From redshirt freshman to seniors, everybody got along. We talk all day, every day.
I think that bond carried over to the field. It showed in our play. We were excellent communicators on the field. It’s one of the reasons that we had such a good secondary this past year. We watched film together. We played at a high level together. It was a fun experience.
JM: One of the things I wrote down next to your name during my tape evaluation of you is ball skills. You had three interceptions in 2020 despite the season being cut short to eight games. What is it about your game that allows you to be around the ball so often?
DH: I always tried to play within our defense. I always put the team first. I never took a play off. I played within our scheme and I played hard. Within the flow of the game, there’s always going to be plays that come your way. You just have to make the plays that come to you.
Thankfully, I was able to make a lot of plays on the ball this year. It was great to see the ball being thrown my way. There were a couple of games early in our schedule where I felt like the opposing quarterback never threw it my way. I kept on going and throughout the course of the year, I started to get more opportunities to make plays. I started to get tested a lot more toward the end of the season. I’m just thankful that I was able to make the plays that I did.
JM: What are three traits in your opinion that make a successful cornerback?
DH: You have to be able to cover first and foremost. You need to have good feet and you need to be able to tackle. I think a lot of guys are able to cover but cornerbacks don’t always make the best tacklers, especially on a bigger running back or tight end. You also need to have a short-term memory. You’re going to give up a play from time to time. That comes with playing this position. You Just have to go back out there and be mentally strong enough to rebound from it, forget about it, and make the next play that comes your way.
JM: I love that. I know you’ll take them where you can get them, but if you could choose any quarterback to pick off for your first career interception, who would it be and why?
DH: It would have to be a legendary interception. Who better than Tom Brady? He’s still gonna be in the league next year. I’m pretty confident that he’s not gonna retire yet. To get an interception on him, that’s something I can tell my great great great grandkids about (laughs). That’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. You could get him fitted for his gold jacket right now. He’s the epitome of the quarterback position. He’s a winner. The chance to intercept him would be amazing.
JM: The combine is going to be drastically altered this year, but you still have a Pro Day to go out there and prove yourself athletically. What are some of the drills that you look forward to competing in?
DH: I’m really looking forward to the agility drills. I welcome any opportunity to show off my fluidity as a cornerback. I have great hips and great feet. I attack the ball in the air. Knowing how fluid and athletic I am, I’m really looking forward to all of those drills.
JM: Who are some of the best players you’ve ever gone up against?
DH: I’ve played against some great quarterbacks throughout the course of my career. Guys like Jordan Love, Carson Strong, and Zach Wilson come to mind. We played against some great teams throughout my time at San Diego State. I’ve played against some great receivers as well. I love to compete. I gave up some plays to some good pass-catchers, but I always went out there and made a play. I made a bunch of plays against some really good teams and players.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today, Darren. In closing, what kind of impact is Darren Hall going to make at the next level?
DH: Darren Hall is going to make the impact that he’s destined to make. I’m gonna come in and work my butt off. I’m gonna make sure that I’m doing all of the things that allow me to play at a high level. I can play on special teams. I can play multiple roles in the secondary. Every play that comes my way is going to get my full effort. I’m gonna give it my all every single day.
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