Receivers’ Friendship Built on Big Personalities

This story first appeared in Washington’s Sept. 13 Gameday program

By Mason Kelley
GoHuskies.com

Jaydon Mickens remembers the moment well. He had just arrived for a summer workout at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles. He was the new guy, a young athlete finding his way.

Then he met Marvin Hall. A year older in school, he was the “loud” one.

“He was talking – a lot,” Mickens said.

When Hall was asked the same question, he had a slightly different version of the encounter.

“He (Mickens) was one of the loudest kids there,” Hall said.

Regardless of which player was the loudest on that particular day, it was their big personalities that brought them together.

“He’s playing around, and I happen to be a playful person myself, so we clicked,” Hall said.

What started at Dorsey continues at Washington. The receivers, who are key pieces of the Huskies’ offense, remain the loudest in the room.

“We have a lot of fun,” Mickens said.

They are similar in size – Mickens is 5-11, 174 pounds, Hall is 5-10, 188. They share similar speed. And they share a friendship that transcends football.

“I look at him like my little brother,” Hall said. “He’s someone around your age where you can talk about the same things, share the same interests. We just clicked.”

The juniors – Hall grayshirted as a freshman – may lack size, but they make up for it with a penchant for big days and explosive plays.

Hall showed flashes as a freshman in 2012 with several returns Mickens deemed “amazing.” Mickens pointed to plays against Portland State and Stanford when Hall first showed what he could do. 

Not to be outdone, Mickens scored his first touchdown that season on an 18-yard strike from quarterback Keith Price against Colorado.

Mickens then showed future coach Chris Petersen what he could do in last year’s opener against Boise State, finishing with nine catches for 109 yards. But his true breakout game came against Cal after racking up 180 yards on six receptions, scoring a pair of touchdowns – 68 and 47 yards.

Hall’s memorable moments from his sophomore season weren’t always easily reflected in the stat sheet. He had a 50-yard catch against UCLA, but came a few yards shy and a foot out of bounds from scoring touchdowns people would still be talking about.

So the friends are now juniors. Mickens is a proven commodity, a player the Huskies expect to have a successful season. Hall is player primed for a breakout year.

“We’ve got to get Marvin in the end zone,” Mickens said.

Mickens believes this is the year his good friend, who earned a starting spot in fall camp, shows off the kind of performances he has narrowly missed through two seasons.

“He’s going to do it,” Mickens said. “He’s going to polish it up and get it done.”

Hall has been so close for so long, he understands the opportunity in front of him. He doesn’t plan to let it slip away.

“I feel like I’m going to be in there a lot this year,” he said. “I was unfortunate last year a lot of times, but I just look past those and move on to the next year.

“I just want to take this opportunity and run with it.”

The receivers are so close they are as quick with praise as they are criticism. They are hard on each other, because they want to ensure success.

“We’re always looking to compete,” Hall said. “Although we’re friends, he pushes me to my potential and I do the same. If I see him slacking or not running his routes the way he’s supposed to, as a big brother, I go up to him and let him know.”

He expects Mickens to do the same.

“He always wants to be coach, and I always want to be coach, especially because we’re friends,” Hall added. “Any time I have something positive to say or negative to say to him, he’s there to listen.”

Add sophomore John Ross, also from Los Angeles, to the mix and you have a group that has been nicknamed the “Legion of Zoom.”

With a 4.29 time in the 40-yard dash, Ross is the fastest. Hall has been timed at 4.40. Mickens isn’t far behind.

“We all play fast,” Mickens said.

But, more important than their combination of speed and talent is their willingness to push each other to get better.

“We just come out every day and compete,” Mickens said. “We compete on who catches the most balls, who gets the most blocks at the end of every practice and now the end of every game.

“We are just all ready to contribute.”

If Mickens or Hall sees a teammate make a play in practice, they file it away and think, “I want to do it like that, but I want to do it better.”

By taking an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better approach, the teammates believe they are pushing themselves to greater success.

“We’re trying to be better than each other and making each other better in the process,” Mickens said.

Teammate Kasen Williams watches the pair every day in practice. He sees their battles as a key reason Mickens and Hall continue to improve.

“That’s why their games are getting on that next level, because they make each other feel comfortable,” Williams said. “They know how to humble each other. They know how to raise each other’s spirits up at the same time. With them being together and both being wideouts, it definitely helps them elevate their game.”

When one of the receivers was asked to describe the other, it was almost as if they were describing themselves.  

“He’s just an energetic guy with a will and passion for whatever he does,” Mickens said. “He comes out every day ready to work. He tries to have as much fun as he can.”

On the flip side, Hall used words like “outgoing,” and “funny” to describe Mickens.

“He’s just a great person all-around,” Hall said.

It is just like the first day they met. They were both loud. They both talked a lot. It seems fitting they became fast friends. They created a brotherly bond formed on the foundation of big personalities.

“They’re entertaining,” Williams said. “They’re homies from high school. Any time you get your homies from high school out here in college, your relationship just gets on that next level. That’s what you see with them. They’re really entertaining, but very focused when they need to be.

“They’re just willing to work hard and make each other better.”

At the end of the Huskies’ Friday afternoon practice in Hawaii, Mickens and Hall were on the field trying to out-perform each other. Mickens had the sleeves of his jersey rolled up, while Hall set himself apart with a strip of reddish coloring in his hair.

Washington’s receivers were running a rapid-fire drill that required them to catch passes while running across the field. When Mickens finished, he shouted and jumped around his teammates. Hall followed suit.

No matter how they perform on Saturdays, Mickens and Hall keep things entertaining among their teammates. But get them the ball in the open field and, chances are, they will produce a play to match their personalities.

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