Former University of Wisconsin Badgers star and NFL running back Montee Ball revealed in a recent Sporting News interview that alcoholism contributed heavily to his downfall and his legal troubles. He says he drank quite a bit throughout his college and NFL careers, and that through counseling he has accepted he is an alcoholic.
“I don’t want to whine or seek public pity,” Ball told the Sporting News. “But I do want to explain everything and give everybody some insight on what I’ve been battling.”
Ball revealed that there was much about the NFL that he didn’t take seriously. “I was naïve enough to think my playing days would last forever,” he said. “I would literally sit in the back of the room texting or being on Instagram not paying attention to the professional explaining to me about preparing for life after football and how important it is.
“I failed to use my platform to help others and to use the NFL as a stepping stone in life. I surrounded myself with bad people, not on the team but in the city. I was naïve enough to believe I had all the answers. I’m still kicking myself in the butt for that,” he added.
As a Wisconsin Badger, Ball was twice recognized as the best running back in the Big Ten Conference and a consensus first-team All-American. On October 13, 2012, Ball scored three rushing touchdowns against Purdue, giving him a career total of 72 touchdowns. This broke the Big Ten record and the Wisconsin record of 71 held by former Badgers running back Ron Dayne.
While breaking rushing records for the Badgers, Ball was setting himself up for failure that would soon come. The heavy partying that began during his 2011 junior season didn’t stop after he became a Denver Broncos second-round draft pick two years later.
Ball said Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville, also a former Madisonian, told him after one meeting that he could smell alcohol on his breath.
“He talked about how he could smell the alcohol on me and that he thinks I may have a problem with drinking,” Ball told the website. “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.”
Ball developed a routine of binge drinking four nights a week during the regular season and somehow kept it going for several seasons before finally being cut during the Broncos 2015 Super Bowl run.
“The disease had spread through my entire life,” Ball said of his alcoholism. “I was super depressed and didn’t have anyone I could speak to out there.”
After watching his former team win the Super Bowl from a jail cell, Ball fell deeper into depression and alcoholism. He hit that rock bottom in the summer of 2016 and finally got sober. Now, he is looking to make a difference through his sobriety.
“I’m really focused on improving my image and relationships that I destroyed,” he told Sporting News. “I let down the fans, the entire University of Wisconsin and my family. I want people to know I am deeply sorry.”
Ball is enrolling back in school and will be taking classes at UW this summer. He is seeking redemption while trying to warn others not to let alcohol take them down the same path.
“I’m really focused on improving my image and relationships that I destroyed,” he said. “I let down the fans, the entire University of Wisconsin and my family. I want people to know I am deeply sorry. I feel way better now. I feel like I’m free.”