Sense of family drew Ball to ASU

Having an older brother playing for the University of Wisconsin was a significant reason for Marcus Ball's initial decision to commit to the Badgers. Ultimately, it was a football family environment which guided the Westerville, Ohio athlete to switch his pledge and sign with Arizona State as one of the marquee players in the Sun Devils' 2013 recruiting class.

"Everything that a family consists of, Arizona State has," Ball explained. "They showed that they can go through a struggle and still persevere. They are family oriented. I saw that with Coach Todd Graham's wife and how she welcomed me into their house during my visit. That is something I very much enjoyed. Nobody before that had ever had me for dinner at the coach's house.

"All the coaches and the players I met showed me how much of a family they really are and that they will do whatever is needed to help each other out. I feel that I fit into this close knit family and I'm ready to go to war with them."

When his older brother, offensive lineman Ray Ball, signed with Wisconsin, the younger Ball naturally got increased exposure and knowledge of that team which helped him in his resolution to commit to that program last November. Being so emotionally vested in the program made the Westerville's athlete decision to eventually switch his alliances that much more challenging.

"My brother made the decision that was best for him," Ball remarked. "Wisconsin is a great university and a great football program and for him that decision was a no brainer. For me, I had to weigh my options. I knew both Wisconsin and Arizona State were great institutions.

"One thing that affected my decision was that the staff that I knew at the University of Wisconsin left. They did get replaced by a pretty good staff, but that still had an effect on me and caused me to have a change of heart. Looking at all the pros and cons and seeing what was best for me, especially with the chance I have to also play receiver, Arizona State and the Pac-12 was the best for me. That's where I felt I best fit."

No one would blame the Ball family for pressuring their son to stick to his original choice knowing the benefits that Ball's older brother was reaping in Madison. To their credit, Ball noted that the family pressure that could have ensued never really materialized as he was evaluating both schools during the recruitment process.

"That was something that could have affected my decision," Ball said of the potential family pressure, "but in the end it really was my decision. My brother always told me to make the best decision for me whether it was going to be Wisconsin or another school. When he knew I wasn't going to choose Wisconsin he was still proud of me. He's a great brother and I love him to death.

"It would be fun to play college football with him and that's a fact and it's hard to say no to that chance. But like I said after weighing all the pros and cons I came to the conclusion that the Pac-12 and more specifically Arizona State was the best fit for me."

And as fate would have it, while the Ball brothers won't share the same sideline in 2013, they are scheduled to share the same field in roughly six months from now when ASU hosts Wisconsin at Sun Devil stadium. The younger Ball admitted that this future contest was definitely a frequent topic of conversation in recent months.

"As soon as he found out I'm going to Arizona State he said that I was going to the ‘dark side'," Ball quipped. "But he's excited to play against me. He thinks he's gonna win and I think I'm gonna win so the conversation has been getting a little spicy (laughs). But it's all love."

***

With reported offers from schools such as Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Illinois, and Indiana, Ball was presented with several opportunities to spend his college football career in relative proximity to his home.

Even though he committed to a school that wasn't a great distance from Westerville, Ball said that never once in the recruiting process did the number of miles from home dictate the schools he was considering.

"I didn't care how far the school was and actually I didn't want to stay close to home," Ball commented, "I always wanted to get away, but the reason I didn't go to Wisconsin wasn't that I really wanted to get out of Big Ten country and go as far away as I can."

One major factor, let alone a common denominator in his recruitment with both Wisconsin and Arizona State was then Badgers' wide receivers coach and current Sun Devils' wide receivers coach, DelVaughn Alexander, who joined ASU last winter.

"Coach Alexander was recruiting me when he was at Wisconsin and he stayed in touch with me the whole time after he left that program," Ball recalled. "It just happened that he ended up at Arizona State and he's one big reason why I ended up there too.

"I'm actually happy my brother was recruited at Wisconsin and signed with them, because if that didn't happen I don't know if I would have ever met Coach Alexander and end up at Arizona State. If he (Alexander) wasn't there at Arizona State they probably wouldn't even have recruited me."

Ball said that Alexander was persistent throughout the entire recruiting process, an approach that undoubtedly paved the way for Ball's commitment and subsequent signing with ASU.

"Arizona State was the first BCS conference school to offer me," Ball remarked, "and even after I committed to Wisconsin Coach Alexander still kept in contact with me. He wasn't bad mouthing nobody, he congratulated me for my decision to commit there (to Wisconsin) and always kept in contact with me. So, when I opened up my recruitment I knew I was going to visit Arizona State."

And that official trip, while surely not under the greatest weather conditions, sealed the deal for the Westerville standout.

***

It's no secret that Arizona State is the proverbial destination school, and a university that has many virtues that have a mass appeal to young adults such as Ball. Yet, someone as cerebral as the Westerville safety was never going to be influenced by some of the traits that have made ASU such an attractive option for both prospects and non-student athletes alike.

Valley of the Sun residents won't remember the weekend of January 11th with any kind of fondness, due to the near freezing temperatures that descended on the Greater Phoenix area. Nonetheless, that environment is what actually benefited Ball so much as he was able to experience the aspects of the program that don't always get its due attention.

"I really liked that how it was 30 degrees the whole time I was there," Ball admitted. "People there were saying that it never gets that cold. But I'm glad that it happened, because when you think about going to Arizona State as an 18-year old everyone thinks about the party and the fun you can have there. It was so cold that everybody was probably in hibernation, so I didn't go to any parties but still was able to have a great time. But on my visit I got to experience the real side of the school, a more mature side.

The fact that Ball wasn't accompanied by any family members on his Tempe visit, did require some measure of self-discipline on his part. Yet, according to the safety that aspect was never going to be in doubt. After all, he knew exactly what the exact nature of this official trip was.

"A recruiting visit is a business trip," Ball stated. "It's not like just the NFL is a business, so is college football and that's the way you have to treat it. So when you go on this official trip you talk about business, get to know all the people at the school, learn as much as you can about the school and the real side of the institution, get all your questions answered and fly back home to make a decision.

"Especially with me being alone on this trip, I knew I couldn't act up and do nothing but have fun there. If I did that I wouldn't get anything out of the trip and wouldn't get to know whether Arizona State was the right school for me or not. Every school is going to roll out the red carpet for you on an official visit whether you're a one-star recruit or a five-star. That's why you have to weed out everything and focus on the things that really matter. Being warm and seeing pretty girls walking everywhere isn't what matters when you go a business trip. My decision was made based on a business approach."

The ASU athletic department has always taken much pride in its high graduation rates of its football players, let alone all student-athletes. Ball noted that the academic presentation he received that weekend wasn't only emphasizing the already impressive academic stats the program can boast, but also about the credibility of people such Senior Associate Athletic Director, Jean Boyd, who headlined that presentation.

"Jean Boyd has a great life story," Ball remarked. "He played there so he knows what football players at Arizona State go through with their academics. Whether he knows it or not, he's an African-American male role model. 80 percent of NFL players are broke, and 50 percent of them are African-American males, so you have to have an education to fall back on when you can't play anymore. It's great when you have someone like Jean Boyd talk to you this early in your life about the importance of education.

"As a Ohio kid coming all the way to Arizona State to go to school, it's good to know that when you put down the football you have someone like Jean Boyd that will be there for many more years and that you can sit down with and just talk about life, academics and if you want also football because he knows so much about those things at Arizona State. We really hit it off and I just knew since that visit that I was going to sign with Arizona State."

***

The 6-3 205-pound Marcus Ball is certainly defined by his versatility as he played both quarterback and safety in high school and while he is slated to play the later role to start his ASU tenure, no one would be shocked if he did dabble with some stints at linebacker or receiver/tight end.

"Versatility has helped me out in a big way," Ball admitted. "Playing quarterback helped me a lot when playing safety because the safety is usually the quarterback and the leader of the defense. The first time I played defense was my junior year and I played just 43 snaps that season, but like I said having all that experience on offense really helped me play well on defense.

"I told Coach Graham that I wanted to start out at safety so I'm going to play my heart out over there so I can get on the field every week. But if the coaches want me to play at wide receiver, how do you look them in the eye and deny them? You don't. They will do that to put you in a situation to help the team, help those guys that you go out there every day and battle with…so how do you tell those guys ‘no'? I don't care what position the coaches want me to play because they will put me in the best situation for the team. I'm happy that I'm blessed with the versatility that can help the team at both positions."

Ball added that he could see DelVaughn Alexander lobbying hard for him to be part of his group, and while he will start Fall camp at safety he anticipates possibly "sneaking in" a few occasional reps at wide receiver if needed.

Ball's resourcefulness isn't only manifested on the gridiron but also in other sports, namely basketball where much like football he enjoyed a solid senior campaign. Ironically, the night before National Letter of Intent Day, Ball scored a school-record 43 points for Westerville-South.

"I definitely feel that playing basketball helps you get better at football," Ball claimed. "It improves your hand-eye coordination, footwork, quickness and also helps you be a leader. I've been lucky to be good at basketball, I always enjoyed playing it and it's cool that it has really helped me along the way with football."

***

Ball expects to arrive in Tempe in the last week of May to begin first summer session classes, let alone summer strength and condition workouts with his new teammates. He realizes that spending his entire summer at ASU can considerably ease his transition on and off the field. Furthermore, it can assist him with the high expectations that will be placed on him to contribute as a true freshman.

"Coach Graham told me that I should come in this year thinking of myself as a starter," Ball stated, "and that I need to have that starter mentality. I obviously know that nothing will be handed to me and that I will have to grind which is OK. I want coaches that are demanding of me and that want me to always grind and demand excellence and determination out of me.

"I'm ready to work harder than I ever have and get on the field my freshman year. That is something that I know I can do. A lot of this game is mental as well, so I have to make sure that I'm not just ready physically. I know that if I'm physically working hard all the time that it will help with grasping everything I need to know mentally.

"I want to go ahead and make some noise as a freshman and help my team to victory."

Recruit Profile

Name

Marcus Ball

High School Westerville-South, Ohio



Position

Safety

Height

6-3

Weight

205

Date of Birth

12/7/1994

Birthplace

Columbus, Ohio

Nickname

"Not really. Some people just call me Marc. Some people just call me Ball."

Favorite TV Show

"Shark Tank."

Favorite Movie

"Coach Carter."

Favorite Singer

"My Mom, she really is a good singer. But I like Beyoncé too."

Favorite Food

"Carolina Gold chicken wings."

Favorite Drink

"Hawaiian Punch."

Favorite Athlete

"He's not my favorite player, but I don't think there is a better athlete than LeBron James."

Favorite Pro Team

"Pittsburgh Steelers."

Person you most admire

"My father. A dad has to be the lion of the family, provide for them and do whatever is needed for his family. He does a very good job of that."

First Football Memory

"I was in Pop Warner. I don't remember how old I was, might have been 2nd grade. I went to practice and when I was running there I threw up so I quit. I didn't like football and didn't want to play. But next year in 3rd grade I was OK with it and played."

Why did you choose ASU?

"If I had to say it in one word, I would say: Family."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"I obviously want to play in the league. That's my dream and I think every collegiate player should have the same dream. Realistically, in ten years I want to be living on the West Coast and working as an insurance agent."


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