Ray Ball: This spring has been a wake-up call you can say. Coach (T.J.) Woods is giving me a chance to run with the ones and the twos to get on the field. Playing left guard is something I absolutely want to do and the competition with Ryan Groy is something I look forward to in practice to make myself better. Also I am pushing him for both of us to be at the top of our game.
Was the coaching change on the offensive line good for you to get a fresh start and build a new relationship?
Ball: It's definitely giving me another chance – a fourth chance. Every time a new coach comes in I try to impress that coach, let that coach know that I am willing to work for you while I make myself better as an overall athlete. I always look forward to it.
What are some things that Woods has pointed out that you can get better at?
Ball: One thing I can definitely can get better at, and he always stresses it and I definitely know it, is my footwork. Keeping a good base, pretty light on my feet is something I always look forward to working on.
What were some of the main strides you made after the season was over? You probably didn't play as much as you wanted to last season, so how do you approach winter conditioning?
Ball: With the new coaching staff, I felt that should give everyone a chance. With them coming in, you want to make a great impression that you are willing to work. That's what I always try to do. Not only that, I wanted to make myself better. I always take it day by day in the weight room, at home or here at the McClain Center working on my craft.
There are a lot of good colleges in Ohio that you could have attended. What made you decide to attend Wisconsin?
Ball: The overall tradition here. The tradition is so surreal it's amazing. When you see guys in the past year constantly going to the league, it's like, ‘All right, if they are able to do that why can't I?' I need that chance and it was a no brainer to pick Wisconsin.
What do you remember about your official visit?
Ball: I came for the Wisconsin-Ohio State game when Ohio State was ranked number first in the nation (2010). When I got the chance to come there and see the whole (OSU) team lose, it was unbelievable. My entire family was there. I brought friends on my official visit to see that Ohio State would lose to Wisconsin. Being there for that official visit, it was amazing.
What was your reaction like after that when you told your family and friends that you were going to play at Wisconsin? You probably have a lot of friends who are Ohio State fans.
Ball: When it came down to my family, they were saying whatever is best for you. My father and my mother said do what you have to do. It was four or five years of your life that you have to be great, and if Ohio State or any other college wasn't going to make that comparison to Wisconsin, you need to go to Wisconsin. It was pretty easy.
For my friends, they were of course pretty sad that I didn't choose Ohio State. At the end of the day it's all about me and how I am going to make myself better as a football athlete.
A couple years here and you have three Big Ten championship rings and three trips to Pasadena. That's pretty good isn't it?
Ball: Not bad at all. With our great coaching staff the past year, being able to push us and take us there, it's pretty cool. I feel Coach Andersen can do the same, as well.
I'd be foolish not to ask about your younger brother Marcus Ball, who was committed to Wisconsin, decided he was going to look around after the coaching change and ends up picking Arizona State. Ironically, UW plays Arizona State in Arizona this fall. Tell me about going through that process with him.
Ball: For Marcus, it was fine that he de-committed from here. I told him he didn't need to feel pressure to come here because of the fact I'm here. But at the same time I told him, like myself, that it's four, five years you are going to be at a university. You don't want to go there and be completely dreaded and not like place. You want to go somewhere that really sparks you. When you get that spark moment then you'll know where you need to be. For him, unfortunately, it was Arizona State, but it's all right with me.
What's your goal of where you want to be in the fall?
Ball: I definitely want to be a starter, hands down, but if I am not able to I definitely want to be like the first alternate where coach can throw me in at either left or right guard. Coach Woods can have trust i. If that can happen, I'll feel pretty about that.