When the Denver Broncos drafted Montee Ball in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, they expected him to be the RB of the future. He went on to have a solid rookie season, getting better and better down the stretch.
When the 2014 off-season rolled around, the team allowed former starter, Knowshon Moreno, to walk in free agency. The Broncos avoided bringing in another running back, until after the draft. with a trio of undrafted rookies. Ball was the starter through training camp and preseason, even after his appendectomy. After his surgery, Ball returned to regular starting duty and had a dismal start to the season.
In 4 games, Ball has rushed for 172 yards on 55 carries with a 3.1 yards per carry average, scoring 1 touchdown. He also lost a costly fumble in the Broncos loss to the Seattle Seahawks. During the Broncos week 5 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, Ball went down in the first half with a groin injury.
Ronnie Hillman took over the lead back duties and ran with it, reinvigorating the Broncos running game.
"The running game has been a lot better since he’s been in there. I'm not going to sit here and lie to myself." -- Montee Ball
This past week, Hillman too suffered an injury, which will keep him out of a couple games. This injury allowed C.J. Anderson to cash in with a career day on the ground, through the air and in the endzone.
Ball has missed a little over a month of action, but returned to full practice participation this week in time for his return to his home, a match up with the St. Louis Rams. While Ball might be ready to hit the field, it's what he's done off of it that has people talking.
During his time out of the lineup, Ball has been able to shed some weight, dropping to 212lbs, from the 224lbs he weighed, prior to his appendectomy. When Ball last weighed around 210 pounds, he was setting touchdown records in college at Wisconsin.
"I definitely feel a difference. Most definitely feel a difference. I was out there smiling because my body feels so much lighter, so much better. This is what I weighed in college, so I'm pretty excited about it."
Ball understands that coming off of an injury with the success the other Broncos backs have had, he is not likely to take over as the lead back once again, but will have to fight for his touches. Against the Rams, Ball will likely see his fair share of action, as the coaching staff and front office would like to see a return on the 2nd round pick they invested in him.
"There's a lot competition in that running back room. It's good. It keeps the quarterback comfortable. He doesn't worry about who's in, because we all know what we're doing back there. It's great. We all work hard."
There can be no greater motivation than playing at home in front of your family. Just ask Anderson, who was playing in his home town of Oakland for the first time as a pro. Ball grew up in St. Louis, as a huge Broncos fan. His favorite player was a somewhat well-known running back that goes by the initials T.D.
"There's a picture that I have; I'm wearing a T.D. jersey, and my cousin's wearing a (Marshall) Faulk jersey. I saw a lot of T.D. jerseys around there."
Ball gets it. This isn't a guy that coasts on his natural talents. He isn't the back that falls into the coaches doghouse. Ball is a humble player, he works hard and his only goal is to have success on the field. When the time comes for his second chance, I have no doubt that he will take it, find a hole, and break through it.