- Wisconsin RB Montee Ball is one of the most prolific touchdown scorers in college football history. He also happens to be a St. Louis native. A year after finishing as a Heisman finalist Ball returned to school and went through a tough offseason involving a dangerous off the field incident.
- Now, Ball is here and hoping to stake a claim as one of the top backs in a wide open class for running backs. He talked about that, bouncing back from the fight that landed him in trouble and what he makes of the local high school talent coming out of St. Louis.
Is it Mon-tee or Mon-tay?
It’s MON-tay. That’s the name.
How’s it going?
It’s been exciting, just because n Not a lot of people can say they’ve been through this process, so you’ve just got to cherish it and that’s what I’m doing.
It seems like in recent years, more and more running backs have been going later in recent drafts. What’s your case for why teams should take a running back early on?
Because I know that I can help a team win. That’s what I truly believe in. My film shows that. I’m going to make sure I prove it a little bit more this weekend. And I think they should start taking running backs earlier.
You could have been here last year. How much better prepared are you to go to the NFL?
I’m immensely prepared for this, physically as well. I understand now the level of competition that I’m putting myself into and really looking forward to it.
Your numbers may have been bigger last year, but are you a better player, though?
Yes sir. I do believe that I’m a better player. I do a lot of things better without the football — blocking, chipping ends and being there for my team.
What players have you modeled your game after?
I try to bend my game after Terrell Davis. He’s my idol. But I hear a lot and I’ve been watching a lot of tape … I feel like I run a lot like Curtis Martin. Nothing really stands out — like speed or strength, but we’re very balanced overall and very consistent.
St. Louis is well-represented here at the Combine. What does it say about the talent in the St. Louis area?
St. Louis has the greatest talent in the nation. Just a lot of in the Midwest, there’s a lot of talent out there that a lot of college teams don’t find. Hopefully they start hitting the Midwest harder and getting that talent out of there.
Any moment in the past year where you doubted yourself?
Yeah. The challenges I faced after the season. I’m only human. I caught myself at times debating if I made the right decision or not to come back. But I’m very fortunate to have the players I had around me to really keep me comforted and just doing a great job of being around me.
What do you tell teams when they ask you what happened?
That you live and you learn. I learned that I live my life in a fishbowl the hard way. The bottom line is I learned my lesson and moved on from it.
After winning the Big Ten Championship game, after you won that game and heard your coach was leaving, now did you guys take it?
I think we dealt with it pretty [well]. Just because of the seniors and captains we had on the team. We understood that it was our time to really rally the team back together and keep us focused for one more game. Obviously a lot of us were upset, just because we were very selfish because we wanted to keep our coach in our program and he’s a great coach. Arkansas is really blessed to have him. I feel like we did a good job of staying focused.
Did you know about it?
We had no idea. But we understand it’s a business and understand that coaches have dreams as well.
They say RBs only have some many hits in them. Did you think about that?
Yeah. Of course. I took a huge gamble. I believe I benefited … I feel that any play you can go down. A player with zero carries. It only takes one play.
What do you need to improve on? What kind of statement do you want to make?
I’m really looking forward to the formal interviews where we sit down and talk to the teams and really show them how well I can apply my intelligence to the playbook and to the game, which gives me an advantage. Obviously I want to show them how well I can move on the field and with the football in my hands and how well I can catch the ball out of the backfield. This past season there’s not a lot of film on me catching the football. But the season when we had Russell Wilson, there’s lot of tape out there that really shows I can expand the offense.
What three strengths would you tell NFL teams you bring to their team?
Accountability, durability and consistent. I’m extremely consistent. You can count on me when I have the ball in my hands — 924 carries, only two fumbles. So I do a great job of protecting the football. I score touchdowns. You can count on me to make the play and be there for you.
- The Rams running back situation has been well documented here. If Steven Jackson does not return, the need for help at RB is far more apparent and a player like Ball, who is more of a workhorse type than a home run hitter would make sense as a complement to guys like Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson. Ball figures to be around into the second round and possibly the third. But he too could boost his stock with a strong performance here.
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