Badgers football: Former running back Montee Ball talks about long alcohol abuse
Former University of Wisconsin running back Montee Ball opened up to Sporting News about his alcohol and domestic violence issues that began at the school and continued through his abbreviated NFL career.
Ball has recently sought treatment and counseling, according to a Sporting News story posted online Wednesday, and is returning to UW through a reentry program that allows former athletes to finish their degrees.
In the story, Ball said he began drinking heavily in 2011, when he was a junior.
“I started to drink a lot more and it started to pour into football,” Ball told Sporting News. “If I knew we had a super-easy practice the next day, I’d go out and get drunk with a whole bunch of people. I’d wake up drunk, hit the steam room and go to practice.”
The pattern didn’t affect Ball’s performance with the Badgers. He scored 39 touchdowns that junior season, tied for the most in FBS history, and went on to score 22 more the next year to become the NCAA career leader in touchdowns (83).
He was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, and his alcoholism only worsened as a professional. According to the story, Ball would drink in excess four nights — Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday — during a typical game week.
Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville even confronted Ball once after a position group meeting, the story said.
“(Studesville) talked about how he could smell the alcohol on me and that he thinks I may have a problem with drinking,” Ball told Sporting News. “He said if I needed any help with that he could reach out to people I could talk to. I didn’t listen to him.”
The Broncos cut Ball before the start of the 2015 season and he reportedly had gained 30 pounds from his listed playing weight when he tried out for the Green Bay Packers.
The New England Patriots signed Ball in December of 2015 but released him after he was arrested for domestic violence two months later. According to the Sporting News story, Ball watched the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 from a jail cell.
Ball was accused of domestic violence by another woman, claims Ball denied to Sporting News, but he accepted a plea deal for both cases because he didn’t feel he could receive a fair trial due to the negative perception around the NFL and domestic violence.
Ball said in the story that the birth of his son, Maverick, was a turning point for him, and he’s also started rebuilding a relationship with his father.
According to the story, Ball will participate in a mental wellness program this month, wants to eventually start a charitable foundation and is in the process of writing a book on his personal struggles.
“I don’t want to whine or seek public pity,” Ball told Sporting News. “But I do want to explain everything and give everybody some insight on what I’ve been battling. …
“I’m really focused on improving my image and relationships that I destroyed. I let down the fans, the entire University of Wisconsin and my family. I want people to know that I am deeply sorry. I feel way better now. I feel like I’m free.”