Bryce Hall wanted to propose to Anzel Viljoen on Tuesday, April 28.
The former Virginia cornerback planned the entire event with the help of Catesby Willis and, despite the anxiety of proposing, felt confident in the plan.
Viljoen and Willis, teammates on the Virginia field hockey team that made the Final Four this past season, were supposed to go on a run Tuesday which would end — unbeknownst to Viljoen — by meeting Hall at the Rotunda, where he would propose.
Mother Nature had other plans.
Chilly weather caused Viljoen to opt against going for a run. She told Hall she’d go Wednesday, when the forecast seemed better for running.
Hall, who was selected by the New York Jets in NFL Draft just several days prior, used the extra day of planning to his advantage. Avery Mullaney, a mutual friend, photographer and UVa cheerleader, wasn’t in town Tuesday but could photograph the event Wednesday.
An extra day also gave Hall a chance to tell his friends about his plan. One of Hall’s friends, clearly a romantic in his own right, had extra rose petals available. Hall lined the path to where he waited for Viljoen with the petals.
As Viljoen finished her Wednesday jog, Hall bent down on one knee and proposed. Viljoen said yes as mutual friends popped out from hiding places and cheered.
“Man, it really just kind of came together, flowed together in a perfect setting without me really trying to, but it just worked out that way,” Hall said. “I think it was pretty cool, and it ended up being a really good proposal.”
The proposal wasn’t without hiccups, however.
Viljoen planned on running a slightly different route than the one she took to reach Hall. Willis, wanting to hold up her end of the bargain by bringing Viljoen to Hall, sternly told her friend they had to go a different way.
“She was like, really rude to me about it,” Viljoen laughed. “She’s never that rude, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I wonder if something happened with her this morning?’”
The couple also uses location sharing on their phones, which gave a hint that Hall might be up to something. Viljoen remembered Hall saying he was headed to his apartment that week. She went to change his contact photo in her phone to a more recent picture of Hall. The screen to change his photo showed his location, which revealed that he was at a shopping center.
Hall was buying flowers for the proposal.
Curious as to why Hall might lie about a simple shopping trip, Viljoen asked what he went to his apartment to retrieve. He fibbed and said he was getting shoes for a rehab workout, but Viljoen knew that sounded off given Hall’s workout out in the sand later that day. He does those exercises without shoes.
Viljoen says despite Willis’ interesting behavior and Hall’s shopping spree, she didn’t expect the proposal Wednesday. She thought Hall might propose a few days later when they had something planned for Saturday, but Hall pulled off the mid-week surprise.
The engagement comes a couple years after the two athletes met on grounds. They became acquaintances their sophomore years, with Hall appearing interested in a deeper relationship.
“Bryce was definitely into me, very clearly, but I would say it was probably more so the accent that he was into,” Viljoen, a New Zealand native, said with a smile.
Acquaintances turned to friends after the two happened to be baptized on the same day the summer after their second years at UVa. The friendship grew from there, with their shared faith playing a central role in their relationship.
The friendship grew into a romantic relationship in the fall of 2019, after Hall’s season-ending injury against Miami. Viljoen stopped by to visit her friend in the hospital, staying with Hall into the night.
“I think, honestly, after that night, when I left the hospital we both kind of knew, ‘Yeah, this is gonna be something,’” Viljoen said.
Their relationship became official in November, and the two became engaged six months later.
Hall’s engagement came four days after he was drafted by the New York Jets in the 2020 NFL Draft.
“It’s been a crazy week, honestly,” Hall said, grinning.
On April 24, he was an amateur athlete dating a fellow UVa athlete. A week later, Hall earned an NFL contract and Viljoen sported a ring on her finger.
It’s an incredible high for Hall, who also knows that the two events bring with them added responsibility.
“I want to succeed in football at the highest level, I want to succeed in my relationship at the highest level, so it’s been amazing,” Hall said. “It’s been a dream come true, but it’s also like, OK, you have more responsibility. I’ve been entrusted with more, so now you have to manage that well and really utilize the platform, the opportunity you’ve been given.”
For those who interact with Hall, it’s not surprising to see him keep perspective through an exciting week. After he suffered his season-ending injury against Miami, Hall actually consoled some of his teammates and coaches who were distraught that his senior season was cut short.
He wanted to make sure they knew he was OK.
Outside of the limelight, Viljoen was one of those ensuring that Hall himself was OK when she checked on him in the hospital after his injury.
The NFL Draft pick is excited to move into the next chapter of his journey with his best friend and fellow former UVa athlete by his side every step of the way.
“She’s very kind and she’s always servant-hearted, and she just makes my life so much easier but adds a lot of joy and just fulfillment as well as so much support,” Hall said. “I really appreciate that. I haven’t necessarily had that because I’ve been so used to doing things on my own.”
Hall, who is used to lifting others up, seems to have met his match.