Our pre-draft series continues with a look at a touchdown-scoring machine poised to find pay dirt in the professional ranks.
Who scored more collegiate touchdowns than Wisconsin running back Montee Ball?
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior finished his collegiate career with an NCAA-record 83 scores.
Ball proved he had a nose for the end zone throughout his college career, posting 18 or more rushing touchdowns in his last three years in the Big Ten, including 33 touchdowns as a junior.
Ball added six touchdown catches that year, tying Barry Sanders’ NCAA record with 39 touchdowns in a single season.
The Wisconsin running back led the NCAA in rushing yards (1,923), was a Heisman Trophy finalist, a consensus first-team All-American and could have easily declared for the NFL Draft.
Ball, however, stayed in school.
Despite posting fewer rushing yards and rushing scores as a senior, the shifty running back felt his decision worked out for the best.
“I’m immensely prepared for this, physically as well,” Ball told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I understand now the level of competition that I’m putting myself into and really looking forward to it.”
Ball believes he’s worthy of being a high draft pick in April’s draft. The numbers he posted at Wisconsin certainly back it up.
“I know that I can help a team win,” Ball said. “That’s what I truly believe in. My film shows that. I’m going to make sure I prove it.”
If teams shy away from taking running backs with high draft picks, Ball doesn’t agree with that notion.
“I think they should start taking running backs earlier,” he said.
Speed is one of the biggest reasons why Ball hasn’t been considered a first-round lock. He ran a 4.66-second, 40-yard dash at the combine, but recently improved his time to a 4.46 at his pro day workout.
Ball aims to have an impactful rookie campaign just like last season’s first-round running backs.
Consistency as a player makes him confident he can handle the task of being a valued contributor for one of 32 NFL clubs.
Asked to name his top three characteristics as a running back, Ball hammered his dependability to anyone listening.
“Accountability, durability and consistent,” the 2012 Doak Walker award winner said. “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.”
Ball returned to school to become a better football player and not chase the NFL dream right away. He wanted to be better prepared to handle the rigors of professional football.
“I took a huge gamble,” Ball admitted. “I believe I benefitted ... 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.”
Ball repeated as a first-team All-American and learned more about himself in the process. Now, he knows exactly what he needs to improve on before embarking on a career in the NFL.
“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,” Ball stated. “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.”
Ball’s laundry list of collegiate accolades includes finishing second in Wisconsin history with 5,140 rushing yards. Ball’s 5.6 yards per carry also ranks third in school history.
There’s a lot of production to evaluate when it comes to studying Ball’s on-field talents.
Teams will also have plenty of touchdown scores to review, 83 to be exact.