After a standout 2021 season, what does Derick Hall have for an encore in 2022?
Derick Hall thought he would go to the NFL after the regular season, but he's back on the Plains for one more year. And the numbers say it could be a spectacular one.
EDGE Derick Hall (Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics)
Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Derick Hall is participating in his first NFL training camp.
He’s a rookie looking to break through in his first season with his new team. He was a mid-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, with a franchise deciding to pull the trigger on him after a strong junior season. There’s hope that the edge rusher can turn into a key weapon in the pass rush for years to come.
And that alternate universe wouldn’t be too far off from the one we’re in right now.
Let’s jump back eight months ago. Auburn had just lost a marathon Iron Bowl to Alabama. The Tigers’ offense was ineffective for the vast majority of the game, but the defense did almost everything it could to keep the hopes of an upset alive.
Hall was a key figure in that effort. He sacked Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the eventual Heisman Trophy winner, three times.1 That brought his season total to nine, giving him the most for a Tiger in a single season since Jeff Holland hit 10 in Auburn’s 2017 SEC West title campaign.
Before the Tigers even went to the Birmingham Bowl, Hall had his mind set on the NFL.
“I told my mom I was done,” Hall recalled last week at SEC Media Days. “I'm going. I'm going to go to the league, I'm going to make it happen.”
But a few days after Auburn’s loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl, Hall announced on social media that he would return to the Plains for his senior season.
He had used the month of December to “really think about” what he wanted to do next, and there was too much still left for him to do in college.
“I wanted to finish school and get my degree,” Hall said. “That was my biggest thing, education. The next-biggest thing was — why would I leave and miss out on a college experience? Because you never get that back. Just being able to play with my brothers one more time and put in the hard work and grit and toughness, the blood, sweat and tears one more time — that was a big thing for me as well.”
Hall got more of that college experience in the winter, when he was often standing on the front row of The Jungle during Auburn basketball’s run to the SEC regular-season championship.2
But he also found himself in the middle of a firestorm in February. As rumors and speculation ran wild about Bryan Harsin during an internal university investigation, Hall was one of the players who was most outspoken in support of his embattled head coach.
“Derick was vocal through the offseason, we all know that,” Harsin said last week. “He’s a guy that believes in the program, believes in what we’re doing.”