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Ball State’s Justin Hall slips past Eastern Michigan’s defense during their game at Scheumann Stadium Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.  (Photo: Jordan Kartholl/The Star Press)

MUNCIE, Ind. — When Justin Hall became a part of the Ball State football program, he knew he was going to play early, play hard whenever he was out on the field and devote himself to getting better whenever he was off of it.

The Georgia native didn’t need practices or games to instill that confidence in himself. All those years growing up playing basketball with his older brother and his older brother’s friends did that. Because although Hall’s older brother has three years on him, Hall said by about his eighth grade year he was catching up to those now-high schoolers who used to always be far better than him at everything.

And so, that’s how Hall has played for the Cardinals, with confidence and a mindset of, “I’m ready to compete against anyone.” And accolades, from freshman All-American recognition to All-Mid-American Conference nods, have followed.

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But all that praise, in and of itself, isn’t the only reason the senior wide receiver has the chance to hold a special pace in BSU history by the time his college career ends. Hall, who originally thought he’d play basketball in college, has the chance to break a record currently held by KeVonn Mabon. By season’s end, Hall could become the Cardinals’ all-time leader in career receptions.

“I didn’t really set no goals … like being the leader, but that’s always something that’s in the back of my mind,” said Hall, who’s 18 receptions away from tying Mabon. “… Winning and trying to help my team win, really just helped me do that.”

Ball State head coach Mike Neu and wide receivers coach Alex Bailey could each see this potential in Hall before Hall ever stepped on the field for them, Neu watching Hall’s high school film and thinking, “We’ve got to get that guy.” Then there was that first fall camp at BSU, when Bailey saw Hall play fearlessly and Neu caught himself thinking, “Oh gosh, look out.” Then there was that game Hall’s freshman year at Illinois, hitch route Hall ran, pass Hall caught and touchdown Hall nearly scored that Hall, Bailey and Neu all still remember and had Neu saying, “Oh gosh,” again.

Bailey said it’s been the Cardinals’ philosophy since Hall arrived to get Hall in space, get him the ball and provide him with the opportunity to make plays. It’s a responsibility Neu said falls on himself and the offensive staff, with the lingering question being, “How many times can we get the ball in his hands?” Because, Neu said, “Every time it gets in his hands something good happens.”

Hall, who’s never missed a game, is Ball