Blog Entry

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:03 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 4:05 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli

On Thursday Wisconsin running back Montee Ball made the announcement that he would be coming back to Wisconsin for his senior season. A commendable decision by Ball considering the season he just had in Madison, finishing the year with 2,229 yards and 39 touchdowns, and going to New York as a Heisman finalist.

That being said, I don't think this is the right decision for Ball to make.

At the moment Ball is ranked as the sixth best 2012 NFL draft prospect amongst running backs by Rob Rang and 80th overall, and he'd likely be a middle round pick. Yes, it's possible that his draft stock will improve after staying at Wisconsin for another season, but that doesn't mean staying in school will help him have a longer, more successful pro career. In fact, it could seriously hinder his chances.

While there are some positions like quarterback where players are better served to stay in college and get another year of experience under their belts, running back is generally not one of those positions. This is due to the wear and tear that running backs endure during a season of football, on both the college and pro levels, and there aren't many programs that can wear down a back like Wisconsin.

A running back's legs only have so many miles on them. Sure, there are exceptions to this rule as we've seen in the past from guys like Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton, but backs like those two don't come around very often. For a glimpse of what does happen more frequently, Ball need not look past his own program and some of the great rushers in the school's history.

For example, there's Heisman Trophy winner and the NCAA's all-time leading rusher Ron Dayne. In his four seasons at Wisconsin Dayne carried the ball 1,220 times for 7,125 yards. In his seven NFL seasons after being a first round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2000, Dayne carried the ball 983 times for 3,722 yards. Dayne never had the success in the NFL that he had while at Wisconsin, and while that's partially due to his build -- Ron was never the slimmest guy around -- you can easly look at those 1,220 carries in college as a factor as well. There weren't many miles left on those legs by the time he joined the Giants.

More recently there was Ball's former teammate John Clay. Clay only played three seasons with the Badgers and had half as many carries as Dayne in his career with 629 rushes, but his legs began breaking down before he even left for the NFL. Clay went undrafted last April before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a free agent. So far in his rookie season with the Steelers, Clay has carried the ball only 10 times. Yes, the jury is still out on his NFL career, but given that he wasn't even drafted and only saw time in Pittsburgh's backfield due to injuries, it's reasonable to think that Clay won't end up in Canton one day.

The good news for Ball is that while he carried the ball 307 times in 2011 -- more than Clay ever had in any season, and more than Dayne had in two seasons at Wisconsin -- he only had 261 rushes in his first two seasons in Madison. So there's plenty of tread left on the tires, but given that Russell Wilson will not be back in 2012, there's enough reason to believe that Ball's workload will only increase next year. Which would not be good news for his longevity.

The other bonus for Ball is that he's a lot smaller than both Dayne and Clay ever were, slimming down to 210 pounds for his junior season for the sole purpose of saving some wear and tear.

Still, given the history of some of Wisconsin's greatest running backs, it's pretty clear that if Ball is hoping to have a long and successful pro career, he should make the move sooner rather than later. Playing football is not a profession with a long shelf-life, especially for running backs, and if Ball wants to have a long professional career, he'd be better off starting it in 2012 rather than 2013.

Check out where Ball, and all the 2012 draft prospects rank on the draft board, and follow all the news on early entrants here. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, has you covered with this daily newsletter. View a preview. Like us? Tell our Facebook page.


Since: Nov 25, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2012 8:19 pm

Oh, really...? Tell that to John Clay...

It's not all about the NFL opportunity; because, despite being picked in the draft, not every player will even make an NFL roster. 

Since: Nov 18, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2012 6:40 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

So many student/athlete's get hammered with you should of stayed in school 1 more year. Your only going to play in the pros for the money.

I don't agree that Luck made a trendy or cool to stay in school, because I'm sure other have stayed before him and many will afterwards. It's just he is the hot topic for the NFL draft.

I'm glad these student/athletes are staying an extra year or two to get their education and futher their craft at sports as well. I just don't see it being a bad thing. Yes he could get injured or worse and make his draft stock go down further. But I do recall, that these individuals are called STUDENT/athletes.

Student first, athlete second. I know thats not always the case. But, to write an article telling a student/athlete is making a bad decision staying in school is just DUMB. (Could of used many adjectives there).

Since: Jan 6, 2012
Posted on: January 6, 2012 4:57 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Bad article.  Good decision by Ball to stay put.  Finishing his degree and getting another year of experience at the collegiate level will only make him a more alluring talent to NFL teams.  It will also show that he isn't a one year wonder.  If he was playing with Alabama or LSU, people would be claiming him to be the next best thing.  The fact that he plays for Wisconsin is the reason why the NFL puts him as a 3rd Round pick at best this year. 

Since: Jul 28, 2009
Posted on: January 6, 2012 4:20 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

You can insure your legs.  McGahee did it, and good thing, cuz my buckeyes snapped him like a twig.  you can get injured in training camp in the pros too.   the possible injury angle is overplayed IMO.   life is filled with risk.    Good choice Montee.    Follow your own intuition.

Since: Sep 3, 2006
Posted on: January 6, 2012 4:01 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2012 11:00 am

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Generally agree w/ this article - I got nothing against anybody staying in school, but if there were ever a position in a sport to jump the gun to the pros, it would be RB. He can always go back to school. Reminds me when Michael Bush made that decision. I was happy but didn't agree with it. Broke his leg in the season-opener. Turned out OK for Bush but he still lost probably a few million. Wish Ball the best of luck - commendable, but highly risky. Just make sure to get those legs insured for a couple mil.

Since: Jan 16, 2008
Posted on: January 6, 2012 10:29 am

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Who would have ever thought that staying in school (for whatever the reason) was a bad thing. For money? I guess there are those who do not put that as their number one priority. Odds are he'll go to the NFL in one piece and make a lot of cash but if he gets injured, I'm sure in his mind he will have thought it was worth it, otherwise he wouldn't be staying. Good for him.

Since: Oct 8, 2009
Posted on: January 6, 2012 7:00 am

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Good on Ball for staying in school. I'm sure he knows what he's risking. If school is that important to him, then he should come back. I personally would take that NFL check and come back for summer classes during the offseason or something. But if he wants to do it that way and understands the what's involved, then I say go for it.

Since: Dec 12, 2007
Posted on: January 6, 2012 12:53 am

Montee Ball is making a mistake

This is a great move.  I bet there's thousands of ex-NFL players that wish they had a degree as a backup plan.  Being a projected 3rd rounder guaranteed him some decent money but that's about it.  Maybe he wants 1st or 2nd round money and wants a chance to improve his stock.  Maybe he wants to get a degree and is looking at some long term goals.  Maybe he has a hot girlfriend who is a junior and he wants to graduate with her.  Maybe the dining hall makes the best grilled cheese he's ever had.  Who cares?  Who are you to criticize a man's choices about his education?

I know!!  Fornelli is a Penn State fan and he doesn't want Ball running over their butts again!!

Since: Apr 6, 2007
Posted on: January 5, 2012 10:49 pm

Montee Ball is making a mistake

Calling someone elses choice to stay in college a mistake is classless.  Some things are more important than money...maybe he wants a Heisman (can't but that).  And don't tell me Cam Newton bought the Heisman...even if 100% of the allegations are true, he still had to perform on the field.  If he got hurt next year in college, he will have to find another flash, if he got hurt next year in the Pros, he would also have to find a new career because as much money as the NFL provides, its easy to burn through it all when its not coming in. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or