Ball plans an even better senior season

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Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, January 6, 2012
— Montee Balls decision to put pro football on hold for another year and instead return to Wisconsin for his senior season surely will raise questions:

Why did Ball, an All-American tailback and Heisman finalist who projected to be a third-round pick if he had entered the 2012 National Football League draft, pass up the money?

Does he really believe he can improve his draft stock by posting better numbers than he did this season (1,923 rushing yards and 39 total touchdowns)?

Does Ball fully appreciate how difficult it will be for UW to replace seniors such as Russell Wilson, Nick Toon, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby and possibly junior center Peter Konz next season?

Will Ball still believe he made the best decision if he suffers an injury?

However, no one needs to ask whether Ball is prepared to lead the 2012 team in the locker room as well as on the field.

Ball showed his teammates he is captain material in the locker room after UWs loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

After head coach Bret Bielema addressed the team, he asked if any player wanted to speak.

Ball raised his hand, stood up and spoke from the heart:

For you seniors, he said, Im sorry that you guys have to leave with a loss. But other than that I really cherish the moments that Ive had with you guys.

And for us juniors and sophomores and freshmen, I really am looking forward to playing my senior season with you guys. . . . I believe it was my time to lift the spirit in the room.

That is how leaders handle business.

As Ball sat behind a microphone in the Camp Randall Stadium media room Thursday and explained why he chose to return to UW, he displayed poise, eloquence and brutal honesty.

To anyone who doesnt believe Ball can become a better player next season, Ball offered strong words.

You dont know what Im capable of doing, said Ball, who acknowledged he would like to make another run at the Heisman Trophy. You have no idea what I can and cannot do for the next season. So just sit back and relax and enjoy another great season.

Its my decision and I believe I made the right one.

Ball, who called the decision the most difficult he has faced to date, acknowledged he didnt agree with the third-round projection, provided by the NFL draft advisory board.

I was really disappointed, he said. I do believe Im better than third round. Im really looking forward to bettering my stock and preparing even harder in the off-season.

To that end, Ball plans to add about 10 pounds to reach 215 before next season.

I plan on attacking the weight room, said Ball, who dropped 20 pounds after his sophomore season to increase his speed and quickness.

Ball isnt worried about a potential injury and he believes UW will be able to compete in the Big Ten despite the personnel losses.

Im really confident in what Im doing and being a leader for this offense, he said. I know for a fact I will come into this season better than I am.

But other than that, we have other great players waiting their turn. This is their year to shine.

I believe they are going to come in ready to work right next to me and also lead this offense to a great year.

In addition, Bielema must replace offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who were instrumental in developing a unit that scored 82 touchdowns (48 rushing, 34 receiving) in 13 games this season.

I have a lot of faith in coach Bielema, he said. It is his job to keep this program where it is at right now.

I have faith in him, and know for a fact well be right where were at.

Ball also hopes to fulfill a promise he made to his parents, that he would leave UW with a degree. He guessed he is about 50 to 55 credits short of a degree in sociology.

Combine those factors and you get a talented player who believes his home and his heart reside at UW for one more year.

Maybe Im not ready to leave all this behind, he said. This environment, this time in my life that Ill never get back.

Im a Badger for life. I believe my heart lies heavily with the Badger family right now, more than the NFL.

I want to make sure I put a huge stamp on this university.

Last updated: 7:36 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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