The workout is over, but Montee Ball isn't done.
Most of his training partners—including MVPs of the BCS national championship game and several likely first-round draft picks—have left the gym. Ball, the two-time All-American and NCAA record holder for total touchdowns, is alone in the corner of the weight room, performing a grueling series of core exercises.
"If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk," he says.
It's the type of attitude and effort you'd expect from a record-setting running back. Ball was a vocal leader in the locker room of the Wisconsin Badgers, and he backed it up with his play on the field. During his junior season, he rushed for 1,923 yards and scored 39 touchdowns on his way to being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
After such a stellar performance, many expected Ball to declare for the Draft; but he reportedly received third-round grades from the NFL draft advisory committee. Ball ultimately decided to return to Wisconsin for his senior season, but he says the modest draft projection is not what spurred his decision to return to school.
"I believed that I was physically ready to play, but I wasn't mentally prepared," Ball says. "Everyone is faster and stronger at the next level, but what separates players is what's between their ears, how smart and how fast they can react on the field."
So now Ball is another year wiser, and earned a place in college football history with his 83 trips to the end zone. But his additional experience has raised another red flag in the eyes of scouts: that he might have played too much.
After all, he did have an astounding 983 career touches at Wisconsin. That's a lot of tread on the tires for a running back who has yet to play a down of professional football.
Loren Seagrave, director of speed and movement at IMG, doesn't think so. He says Ball's drive and willingness to work will make him an outstanding addition to any team. "He never missed a practice, was always at film study, and always wanted to know more," Seagrave says. "If you know these things about an athlete, you're going to pick him over somebody who's dodging workouts, half-stepping drills and counting reps by two's."
Back in the empty weight room, Ball wraps up his sequence of grueling core moves—Overhead Plate Crunches, Suitcase Crunches and Side Raises. Only then is he ready to move on with the rest of his day—and the next stop on his journey to becoming a pro. He says, "I'm telling myself every day that I can be the feature running back. That's what I'm working hard for every day."
Photo: Courtesy of IMG Academy
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