A former Wisconsin Badger star running back and Heisman Trophy finalist, Montee Ball is now also an author, recently releasing the book Nowhere To Run: Discovering Your True Self in the Midst of an Addiction, his own personal story of his life journey being a star football player, his battle with alcoholism and addiction and the ways in which he’s turned his life around. Montee Ball’s story is one of change, humility, and inspiration.
Ball was born in Kansas and raised in Winfield, Missouri.
“Going to school at Timberland High School and playing football and was fortunate enough to receive a full-ride scholarship to play football at the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” Ball told Madison365. “It was a very easy decision for me. I didn’t want to stay home, and I wanted to kind of branch out get to know myself a little more. So, I chose to go to the UW-Madison because I wanted to be a Badger.”
In “Nowhere to Run,” Ball talks about how as a student at UW-Madison, his relationship with alcohol increased. He talked about struggling with the pressures of playing football at a big school. The party culture of UW-Madison was a space that encouraged his drinking, but his parents called out the signs early on.
“Honestly, it really didn’t hit me until my sophomore year that being just the societal pressures that come with a game of football,” said Ball. “I struggled with really figuring out how to work through those emotions, those thoughts. And I struggled talking through them with folks because I really didn’t feel as if there was an avenue for me to speak about certain things that I was struggling with.
“And that just led me to self-medicate with alcohol, which is something I saw that everybody else was doing — going into parties, going to bars. I messed around with alcohol in high school, but I didn’t do it significantly because my parents would always tell me to stay away from it. My mother would always speak to me about my father because he’s a recovering alcoholic. She knew and saw some of the signs that I was obviously giving off.”
Ball said that during that time alcohol was his answer because it made him feel good and forget about the pressure of trying to deal with fans. The two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist was drafted into the NFL to play for the Denver Broncos. His NFL career lasted just two years and ended due to his problems with alcohol. In 2016, his struggles with alcohol led him to charges of domestic violence with a woman he was dating at the time. This resulted in him being jailed for the weekend where he faced the reality of his situation.
“I was in jail through the weekend,” said Ball. “And sat in jail and watched the Denver Broncos win the Superbowl while I was in jail. They beat the Carolina Panthers. And I watched it on Sunday in jail with about six other cellmates and I remember one cellmate telling me that ‘that should be you up there on the screen. You’re supposed to be a role model to us. You’re supposed to be someone we can look up to. But you’re sitting here right next to us.’ That most definitely hit me pretty hard.”
During this time, Ball found out he was going to be a father and that it was time to get sober and live a healthier life for himself and for his son. Ball is now a certified recovery coach and recovery advocate who aims to tear down the stigma that surrounds substance use disorder. He is also a public speaker and the co-host of his sobriety podcast “Untapped Keg,” where he provides peer support for those who are struggling with addictions to drugs and alcohol.
He’s spent the last few years working to encourage people to be their best selves and letting them know that they should be mindful of what they put into their bodies and how they’re spending their time, especially now during the pandemic.
“It’s never too late to change,” said Ball. “It’s really not. And that’s so cliche, I understand that. But it’s very true. It’s going to be hard because there’s going to be some people that are going to judge you. There’ll be some people that are going to believe you’re not being honest or truthful. But you got to do it for yourself and do it for your loved ones.
“And I just challenge folks to really just be mindful, especially now, during this pandemic. Just be mindful of what they’re putting into their body. But be mindful of just where you’re going with your life,” Ball adds. “What do you want to be? Who do you see yourself becoming in 10 years, 15 years from now? Are you giving back to the community? Are you giving back to our youth, to our next leaders? Are you trying to help them? Are you trying to guide them because that’s who’s going to be carrying the torch once we’re gone? I think right now the battle is against opioids and alcohol and we have to address that. So that’s what I want to leave.”
For more information about Montee Ball and his work, visit: https://www.monteeball.com/.