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Montee Ball sets sights on degree from UW after opening up about alcoholism

Montee Ball was once the toast of the town in Madison, such is the case when you are setting records and winning championships. However, Ball’s great college football career didn’t equal NFL success.

Now he is focusing on trying to finish up his college degree and get his life back on track following an awful spiral to the bottom according to an article in The Sporting News.

Ball’s battle with the bottle led him down a dark path that eventually put him in the Dane County Jail on domestic violence charges. On Wednesday, Ball opened up about what went wrong for himself and where he is at these days.

Ball admitted to being an alcoholic and that he is getting help in that area of his life today.

He says the partying began during the 2011 season, one in which he was rushing for 1,923 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Partying in college isn’t exactly an anomaly, but Ball couldn’t stop the party from eventually taking over his life. Despite the bottle beginning to take over his life, Ball was able to set career records in his final season in a Badgers uniform in 2012.

However, once the structure of a college football life was over, his alcoholism began to take over his life. It also didn’t help that his love of the game of football began to quickly sink away after his rookie season in the NFL.

“Ultimately, I didn’t really enjoy the NFL as much as college,” Ball said in an interview with The Sporting News. “It’s a business.

“All in all, I was very fortunate to play for the Broncos. They were my favorite team as a child. My ultimate goal was to play for the Broncos. But it wasn’t what thought I thought it would be. It’s a very lonely, lonely world. (The NFL) is a very money-driven organization that kind of takes away from the joy of the sport.”

He turned to partying four nights a week according to the article and eventually was being called out by his position coach with the Broncos for showing up “smelling like booze” on multiple occasions.

Alcoholism had such a firm grasp on Ball that even his first stint in jail did nothing to help him face his demons. It took an arrest for violation of probation, following being spotted in a Whitewater bar, for him to finally seek the help needed.

The good news for Ball is that it seems he is on the right track.

“Around early summer last year Montee really shifted into a different stage,” Cory Devine, who is Ball’s addictions and mental health therapist, told Sporting News in a telephone interview. “He acknowledged being an alcoholic, which is a significant thing, and coming from a domestic violence background himself.

“He recognized, ‘This is a pattern I’ve got to stop. It’s my responsibility to do so.'”

Things have gotten better and he even recognizes how much of a chance he squandered by letting alcohol control him while in the NFL.

“I failed to use my platform to help others and to use the NFL as a stepping stone in life,” Ball said. “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.”

Now he is focused on getting his life back on track, which includes keeping track of the days he remains sober and going to class starting this summer session at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He also credits another bombshell moment in his life for helping him to wake up — the birth of a son he didn’t know he was having. Amidst the sea of legal trouble and change in his life, Ball found out a girl he had seen in Denver was six months pregnant and a paternity test would prove Montee to the be the father of the baby.

That moment is what Ball credits for opening his eyes to turning his life around.

“That was the turning point,” Ball said in The Sporting News article. “I finally realized I have a purpose — to raise that kid. That’s a responsibility I will take.”

He’ll now focus on helping his by getting his undergraduate degree in Sociology, while then moving on to graduate school.

There’s talk of a book on his battle with alcoholism and wanting to start a charitable foundation as well.

Oh, and he is hoping to one day be able to repair a fractured relationship with the Badgers football program.

There’s a long road ahead for Ball, but it certainly seems like he is saying and doing the right things to correct the issues that have plagued his life as a young adult.

[The Sporting News]

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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