Nov. 12, 2012
• Watch Ball's News Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin senior running back Montee Ball spoke to the media Monday about his attempt to break the NCAA touchdown record, Ohio State and Senior Day.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Ball’s remarks can be found below.
Question: Do you look back to that Ohio State game two years ago?
Ball: I think I look back on it when times get tough. I look back on it and tell myself I went through that. I went through that challenging time, so anything that comes my way again, I'm able to overcome it.
Question: Montee, how aware are you of the touchdown record heading into this week, and how do you balance that with an important game?
Ball: I'm very aware of it. But mainly what I'm focusing on is and I talk to coach (Thomas) Hammock about it every day, and he makes sure to tell me that try not to think about it, keep doing what you're doing and it will unfold. It will happen is basically what he tells me. It's really easy to not think about it a lot because I still have to go out there and perform with my teammates. I'm a really humble player, so I try not to talk about it much.
Question: Montee, is there a difference to you in holding the record by yourself or sharing the record? Referring to last year sharing the single-season scoring record instead of holding it outright. If so, does that motivate you to get a couple more scores to have the records all to yourself?
Ball: I like both. I like to I'm the kind of player that I like to have my own records, I believe everyone does, but I also like to share with my teammates. Just talking about the last game having the rushing record with Melvin (Gordon) and James (White). That's something I probably will never forget.
Obviously, I want the touchdown record because that's something I'm really working hard for, and really that's kind of something that all of us will share together.
Question: I meant sharing the record with Barry Sanders last year.
Then, yeah, I want to break it. If I do tie it and that's the only thing I do is tie this one, then I'll still be blessed, but I'm definitely shooting to break it.
Question: I'm sure you know your teammates on the defensive side of the ball don't like it when opponents do good things against them, whether it's setting a record, scoring, whatever. Do you anticipate Ohio State's defenders are coming here thinking there's no way in hell he's going to get that record against us?
Ball: Of course. I was thinking about that actually earlier today. I know for a fact that Urban (Meyer) is a very competitive guy. I know for a fact that's what he's telling them. And that's going to create a great game, I think, for our fans.
Yeah, if I was him, I wouldn't want for anybody to break a record on me.
Question: Did you ever think you might not get this record this season?
Ball: Great question. At the beginning of the year, just everything that happened to me this summer and coming out of the gates real slow, personally, I kind of thought it was way out of hand's reach for myself. But I'm really glad I stuck with it and kept fighting and kept pushing and kept working hard with my teammates in practice.
And now that I'm close to getting it, it seems possible.
Question: The past calendar year, you've mentioned the Ohio State game from 2010 countless times. Would you say that's your biggest motivating factor that's gotten you to where you are today?
Ball: Yeah, for sure. I believe I'm happy that that happened because that really showed me what I have to do during practice because I wasn't I was working hard, but I wasn't working as hard as I am now. I wasn't doing the extra that you need to do every day to be a really good player in college football. So I'm really glad that happened.
I tell you every time, when times get hard, I look back on that time because that was the first time I wasn't able to play in the football game, and that was really challenging to myself. Now I make sure to look back on it and keep telling myself I overcame that, so anything else that comes my way, I can overcome it. I'm really glad that happened because it really opened up my eyes.
Question: When you stood there on the sidelines that day and you weren't playing, did you think two years from now I'm going to be going for the career record for touchdowns? How far away from your mind was that thought?
Ball: It was far. I wasn't thinking about that at all. At the time, I was thinking about switching positions. Switching to linebacker, just trying to find any way to get on the field. But I most definitely wasn't thinking the following year I was going to have 39 touchdowns, and this year the chance to break the touchdown record. I wasn't thinking that at all.
Question: Obviously, you're close with James White, and I'm just curious, if you do get the record at some point, whether it's this weekend, whatever, what do you think his reaction will be? And do you think he might remind you that of the three tailbacks, you have the third highest per carry average? That you're behind him and Melvin (Gordon)?
Ball: That's a good question. I actually don't know what his reaction I believe he'll be excited for me because we like to share moments together. We're really close with one another, so I believe he's going to be just as excited as I am. Same with coach (Thomas) Hammock, a lot of things with coach Hammock that I really enjoy.
But really with James, I think that you know, he's one of my best friends here in college because we share so many experiences together, and obviously, we live with each other. But he and myself are going to joke around. They do joke around with me that I have the lowest average per run.
Question: Do you think you'd be a pretty good linebacker right now? Where do you think your career would be if you were tuned up to tackle Braxton Miller this weekend?
Ball: I have some years of experience with linebacker, but I don't think I'd be pretty good. I'm glad to see that I stuck with the running back. But, yeah, Braxton Miller, he's a phenomenal athlete. He puts a lot of pressure on defenses, but I'm really confident in our linebackers to get the job done.
Question: Montee, if you were to get that one touchdown to tie and two to break it, where do you think that would place you among the history of college football?
Ball: Well, I just have a nose for the end zone. It kind of says it itself. I'm the one who has ever scored the most touchdowns, if I break the record, and just that person that you want to give the football to.
Question: Have you guys set a magic number this week for rushing yards?
Ball: Actually, no, not yet. We do that tomorrow. Every position group has their position goals, basically. Last week was the 400 yards off the linemen. For us, it was 200 yards after contact. I think that's great that we do that.
Question: Is it important for you to get the record at home, Montee?
Ball: Yeah. I believe it it's the ideal picture basically for myself is to break the record here at home in my last home game.
Question: A couple years ago, I think you were more of a power back. Last year you stripped down some weight, got a little bit faster. This year you seem like you've evolved even further in the passing game and you seem like you're a little bit faster. How do you feel like you've evolved over the last two years, and how much emphasis have you put on that, and where do you think you are right now as a player?
Ball: I feel like I just like you said, going from my sophomore year to my junior year, I knew that there was a lot more tackles I could have broken, a lot more yards I left out on the field in my 2010 season, not getting as much rushing yards. Kind of put a bad taste in my mouth.
So going into my junior year, I made sure I was going to shed some weight. I believe that helped a lot. Obviously, from that year to this year, what I really focused on was doing a lot of things better without the football, which is pass protection, just being able to read the defense pre snap a lot better than I did last year, and I believe that's helped me out a lot and this team.
Question: Do you think the coaches have ever gone out of their way to try to help you get this record or do anything extraordinary, or do you think it's just kind of happened?
Ball: Just happening because the thing with Wisconsin, which is why I chose this school, the tradition here, the environment, the family lifestyle, they never want to they don't want to out single a person. Basically, they don't want to make me seem like I'm above everyone else. They're not going to go out of their way to give me a record. They're just going to make sure they keep doing what they're doing.
Last week against Indiana, we established the run game, and if we need to throw it, we'll throw it.
Question: Coach Bielema said earlier he's not going to limit any guys for this game or the next game considering that you already are playing for the Big Ten Championship game. Do you feel like that's the right decision? And how would you react if coach in the third quarter was like, hey, Montee, we're not going to play you anymore?
Ball: Well, I feel it's the right decision because whatever coach B decides to do, we're behind him 100 percent. He's been doing the right thing. I believe that we all should play. We should play with all weapons because this is still a game on our schedule, we're all competitors, and from what we left on the field last year against Ohio State, we want to make sure we win this year.
If he did do that, take me out in the third, third quarter, fourth quarter, whatever, I'll be fine. I'll be fine with it.
Question: Montee, everyone likes to score touchdowns. They say you have a nose for the end zone. What does that mean? What is it that drives you and makes you so good at finding the goal line?
Ball: Just what I tell myself. I tell myself I don't want to finish a drive out with a field goal. I believe that you make a huge statement when you finish out a drive with a touchdown. And that's what I keep preaching to myself at practice. So I make sure I practice it and practice hard and carry it forth in the game.
Question: Montee, one of the main reasons you came back this year was to prove your NFL stock and to be there for your teammates, more so on the NFL. Have you done what you wanted to do this year, improving your body and your game to be a bigger impact, better draft next year, and have you heard any feedback that would kind of reaffirm that smart decision you made?
Ball: I feel like I have proved a lot this year because you know, obviously, we struggled in the beginning of the year. We had to make a coaching change. So it's no secret we lost some great players up front. They're playing in the NFL now. So we were struggling at first.
I think right now what I've shown everybody is that I'm capable of making defenders miss, and the YAC, yards after contact, which was huge for me.
As of right now, I haven't heard anything back from anybody. Right now I'm just going to keep playing.
Question: I'm sure with the stuff that went on in the off season, the couple of tough losses so far this year, there have been some times that probably haven't been too happy for you personally. What has this season taught you, I guess? What do you take away from this season so far? Because it really hasn't been all smooth sailing, even going back to the off season.
Ball: Someone actually asked me that question, kind of a similar question the other day, and I think I cherish this season more than I do last year because I've always been taught growing up, my parents made sure to teach me that everything's not going to go your way. That's basically the definition of a man is how he overcomes adversity, and I overcame a lot of it, starting with everything that happened to me this past summer and then stumbling out of the gate with my teammates.
I just feel like all of that shapes the person that I am now, today, and I believe that's going to help me out with whatever I feel like doing from here on out.
Question: Montee, how will you remember this group of seniors, and what do you think your guys' legacy is going to be here?
Ball: I'm definitely going to remember every single one of them because we all have different stories, we all come from different backgrounds, and the great thing about it is coming from all the different backgrounds, we all come together for one common goal, and that's something that you cherish as a player. And you really start to see it as you get older.
When you get older, and the legacy that we're trying to leave is being the Big Ten champs again, and if we win it, it will be the first time here, right? Three-consecutive years. So that's most definitely what we're trying to leave.
Question: Since you started this stretch here, obviously, I'm just curious, how has your life changed away from football? When you're walking around campus and you interact with other students, how has it changed?
Ball: It's changed a lot. The bus kind of didn't help. Not saying it was a bad thing. I enjoy it. But it's fun. Humbling to see people run up and want autographs. It's something that I enjoy and cherish.
Question: What do you think is going to be going through your head on senior day? Are you thinking it's going to be your last game at Camp Randall, or is it just another game?
Ball: I think it actually hit me after the last game with Indiana. I was thinking this next game is going to be my last game at Camp Randall. It hits me every single day at random times, but it's kind of bittersweet. It's kind of sad. You know, that's the last time I'll be able to play here, but everything that I've done here is something that I can look back on and really love to think about.
Question: Coach Bielema said you ran like a man possessed on Saturday. Are you trying to make a late push to be a Heisman finalist. Is that true?
Ball: I didn't say it, but of course, it's something that I would love. The experience that I had there last year is something that I most definitely want to go back to. It was one heck of an experience.
It's just another award that we all want. We all want awards, our own personal goals met, and that's something that we look forward to.
Question: You talk about cherishing this season because things haven't gone easy for you, starting with the summer. Do you think the same can be said about the team in general? Given what happened with the O line, given what happened with the quarterback spot and the positions all over?
Ball: Yeah, for sure. Like I said, we all stumbled out of the gate. I believe in the early games we lost, I believe they're going to help us in the next couple of games we have because Ohio State and Penn State are good teams. We've been in fourth quarter games, and at times we fell short, but I believe those losses are going to help us really show the young players that every minute counts, every play counts.