Badgers' Ball Named Heisman Finalist
MADISON, Wis. - It's probably safe to say that this was Montee Ball's best birthday yet. Judging from the smile on his face when he came into the McClain center media room Monday evening, it was easy to see being named a Heisman finalist was a welcome present.
"Best birthday ever," Ball said. "Best birthday ever."
Ball was named one of five finalists for the Heisman trophy, college football's premier post-season award, along with Robert Griffin III or Baylor, Andrew Luck of Stanford, Trent Richardson of Alabama, and Tyrann Mathieu of LSU. Ball said he got the news along with everyone else, on the couch watching TV, and he will head to New York City for Saturday night's presentation.
"I was sitting at home, I had the TV going, and I sat that and just watched [the announcer]," Ball said. "As soon as he said ‘alphabetical order,' I knew if he didn't say my name first I wasn't going to get it."
It's certainly been quite the ride for Ball, who as recently as last season was buried behind John Clay and James White on the Badgers' running back depth chart. But Ball didn't give up, despite briefly considering a position switch back to linebacker, and he emerged as one of Wisconsin's best running backs since Heisman-winner Ron Dayne. If Ball were to win the trophy, he would be the third Wisconsin player to bring home the Heisman hardware.
"At that time I would never have thought that I'd make it this far," Ball said. "But I'm really glad to see myself stick through it and really fight thought that situation, and just stay the course."
And now, with just under a month until the Badgers take on Oregon in their second-consecutive Rose Bowl, Ball has some time to absorb the announcement, and even try to work on an acceptance speech should he be so lucky.
"Throughout the season, it's kind of hard to allow the awards to soak in, because you're preparing for the next team the next day, so you know now it's that time where it's all finally sinking in," Ball said. "I honestly don't know what to say."
"It's an honor just to make it there. That's enough for me right there ... just to sit next to all the other great players in the country.
And while Ball's Heisman push may have started a little later than normal, but he feels good about his chances of winning the school's third Heisman trophy.
"I feel like I have a pretty good chance," Ball said. "If I don't win it I'll be perfectly fine."
"Hopefully other players will look at my story and just stay the course, and keep fighting."
But it wouldn't be right if Ball didn't give credit to his offensive line, who have paved the way for his 38 touchdowns all season.
"I owe them everything, what they've done for me is great. The holes that they create, and the leadership they provide is great," Ball said.
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