MADISON, Wis. - Football is a game of inches, and for Montee Ball, his 2010 season came down to just 144 inches. After rushing for 132 yards against TCU in the Rose Bowl, Ball ended up with 996 yards on the season. Four more yards, and not only would Ball have broken the all-important 1,000 yard mark for a running back, but the Badgers would have been one of the few teams to have three 1,000-yard running backs.
So this year, Ball didn't let his season come down to the bowl game and a few tackles for loss. Ball's 233 yards against Purdue last Saturday put him at 1,076 yards for the season.
"It shows how much I worked in the offseason, because last year I fell short of it and I really wanted to make sure I made that mark this year," Ball said after practice Tuesday.
"Growing up, my parents always told me ‘If you want some thing, go get it.'"
But don't let the stats deceive you. At the end of the day, while passing the 1,000-yard mark was important to him, Ball is happier when the Badgers win. According to running backs coach Thomas Hammock, Ball knows that the team has to come first.
"He's an unselfish player, he's a team guy," Hammock said. "He's willing to do whatever it takes to sacrifice for the team, and put it on the line to help us win every week."
This year, doing "whatever it takes" means being the Badgers' featured running back, a position he wasn't expected to have after falling behind James White on the depth chart a year ago.
"I really wanted to become the feature back," Ball said. "I want all that pressure on my shoulders, because I feel like I really enjoy pressure."
And while being the Badgers' feature back comes with responsibilities, Hammock said Ball knows how to share the workload effectively. After all, if John Clay and James White hadn't shared the load with Ball last year, he might not be where he is today.
"He understands that it's a marathon, not a sprint, and it's a long season," Hammock said. "If you have an opportunity to get a couple less hits, [you] can give someone else opportunities."
News and Notes
Paul Bunyan's Axe made a special appearance at the Badgers' practice Tuesday. Players had to touch the axe before leaving practice for the day, and it was obviously a hot topic of discussion. Badgers center Peter Konz, from Neenah, Wis., talked about watching the rivalry game growing up, and what the gigantic trophy symbolizes.
"At the end of the day, that Axe represents a win," Konz said. "[It] represents that you did the right things."
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