Badger running back Montee Ball sets sights on Heisman Trophy

By Lanny Holstein

Badger running back Montee Ball sets sights on Heisman Trophy

Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is not shy about his intentions for the 2012 season. He wants to win the Heisman Trophy.

The Badger senior decided to return for one final go-around at the collegiate level. Ball even passed on an opportunity in the NFL Draft because he said had unfinished business at Wisconsin. Ball told reporters at Big Ten Media Days he was evaluated for professional readiness and scouted as a third-round draft pick. That was not high enough to lure him away from the opportunities Wisconsin gives him this season.

“I came back to get an education, be a leader for this team, be a team captain and go undefeated,” he said. “We left a lot on the field last year, and obviously for my individual self, I want to break more records and win the Heisman.”

Badger coach Bret Bielema is behind Ball all the way and is leading the running back’s charge to New York City.

“It’s our goal and our intention, obviously he’s going to be up for the Heisman, so I’d love to be a head coach that coaches a Heisman Trophy winner,” Bielema said. “Our offensive line would love to be an offensive line that blocks for a Heisman Trophy winner, and everybody in our program is going to try to help him win that award.”

Ball returns to Wisconsin as the nation’s leader in Heisman votes from last year. The three players ahead of him in the voting, winner Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson, all ended their collegiate careers last season.

If he is to make it back to the ceremony in New York this December, Ball will have to do it under a new offensive coordinator. The mastermind of Ball’s breakout 2011 campaign, Paul Chryst, left his position at Wisconsin to be the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. He took with him many of Wisconsin’s other offensive coaches, leaving Bielema to reconstruct the staff.

“I like them,” Ball said. “I was lucky enough to keep my coach. Keep Coach (Thomas) Hammock, the same coach I had last year, but speaking for the other players that have coaching changes, the common thing I keep hearing around the locker room is that they are very easy to talk to. They’re willing to step right in and help us, help each player become better and play their best games.”

Ball will also play with a new quarterback this season. Russell Wilson, the one-year wonder, is gone, but Ball said he is not worried.

“We are not looking for (Danny O’Brien) to be like Russell Wilson,” he said. “We’re looking for him to play like Danny. Play in your shoes, play like you’re capable of playing and that is well over enough for us.”

Ball said he thinks the Badgers are headed for big things as a team this year and he knows the importance the team’s success has on his candidacy for college football’s highest award.

“I would be lying to you if I said that wasn’t in the back of my mind, but like I said, it’s in the back of my mind,” he said. “What’s in front is team success, (to) go undefeated. Without team success, I won’t be in New York.”

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