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Montee Ball, Cassandra Darrah named Wisconsin Athletes of the Year

Wisconsin has a deep well of athletic talent, but its athletic department pegged the football and softball standouts as the Male and Female Athletes of the Year. Now, Ball and Darrah will enter the pool of candidates for the Big Ten's top athlete honors.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Among the pool of candidates selected as finalists for Wisconsin's Athletes of the Year honors, Montee Ball and Cassandra Darrah were arguably the two most accomplished. Friday afternoon, the university announced the former running back and right-handed softball ace were the winners of the male and female athlete awards, respectively.

Ball finished his senior season as the 2012 Doak Walker Award winner after finishing with 1,830 rushing yards, third-most in the country. He also finished his career as Wisconsin's all-time leader in touchdowns with 83, and was named a consensus first-team All-American. Drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 58th overall pick in June's NFL Draft, Ball signed his rookie contract on Thursday and could very well be the starting running back there.

Darrah, meanwhile, led Wisconsin's softball program to its first-ever Big Ten tournament title, earning MVP honors as she pitched all 21 innings of the three games and notched a 1.67 ERA. Her contributions culminated in the Badgers' first NCAA tournament appearance since 2005. In finishing 27-7, her .791 winning percentage was a single-season UW record.

Ball and Darrah will now be considered for the Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and the Suzy Favor. The former was established in 1982 with the latter coming a year later. Wisconsin's only winner was former running back Ron Dayne in 2000, after he rushed for 2,034 yards and 20 touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy.

The Suzy Favor award has faced a murky future of late after Favor was revealed in December to have lived a double life as an escort. Favor, a three-time Olympian, won 23 conference titles with the Badgers and graduated from UW in 1991.