Ball Forgoes NFL Draft, Will Return in 2012
It's official: Wisconsin junior running back Montee Ball will forgo the 2012 NFL Draft and return to the Badgers for his senior year. Ball announced his decision at a press conference in Madison, just a few days after the Badgers lost the 2012 Rose Bowl to Oregon.
"I took time to really take in everyone's opinions of whether I should leave or stay, I want to thank everybody for what they had to say," Ball said. "I came down to looking in the mirror and telling myself ‘what's best for myself and my family,' and just listening to my heart. And to the entire Wisconsin nation I will be returning for my senior season."
"I believe that I have to come back for my senior season and really be a leader for this team."
The decision comes as a surprise to some, as Ball was widely seen as a heavy favorite to go pro after his stellar junior campaign, which saw him rack up over 1,900 yards and score 33 touchdowns, tying Barry Sanders' record for most touchdowns in a single season. Ball was also one of five Heisman Trophy finalists, eventually losing out to Robert Griffin III of Baylor.
Ball mentioned the feedback he received from the NFL Draft Advisory Board wasn't what he had hoped for, and it fed into his decision to return to Wisconsin.
"When they came back and said ‘third round,' I was really disappointed," Ball said, who earlier in the year mentioned he was hoping for a first or a second-round grade. "I do believe I'm better than third round. I'm really looking forward to bettering my stock and preparing even harder in the offseason."
One way Ball plans to better his draft stock is by getting stronger and trying to get faster. Ball mentioned he plans to add about ten pounds in the offseason, and he's hoping that will bring him closer to an ideal NFL weight.
But Ball's decision has been met with some backlash. Most running backs elect to go pro as soon as possible, in order to start making money and making the most of their relatively short professional shelf life. But Ball isn't concerned about what he stands to lose by returning to school - he's convinced he can improve his draft stock, even if he can't duplicate his 2011 season, and he felt there's still unfinished business for him to attend to.
"Obviously I'm taking a pretty huge gamble of coming back for my senior season," Ball said, "But I believe that I'm making the right decision ... (Draft analysts) have no idea what I can and cannot do next season."
Plus, Ball doesn't believe the Badgers will experience any severe drop off from 2011 after losing key seniors and coaches. He said he has faith in Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema to hire more quality assistants, and believes there is still a lot of talent returning to the Badgers.
"I'm really confident in what I'm capable of doing. I know for a fact that I will come into this season better than I did this (last) season," Ball said. "Other than that, we have other great players returning, and this is their year to shine. They're going to come in to work right next to me, and also lead this offense to another great year."
And when it come down to whether or not he would have been comfortable leaving for the NFL, Ball said his gut told him to get his degree in sociology and spend one last year wearing cardinal and white.
"I'm a Badger for life, but I believe right now my heart lies with the Badger (family) more than the NFL," Ball said.
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