Former Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball opened up about his battle with alcoholism on Wednesday, saying he drank heavily during his college and NFL careers, and that through counseling he has accepted he is an alcoholic.
Ball, who says he is now sober, said in an interview with The Sporting News that his heavy drinking began during his junior season at Wisconsin in 2011, and carried on throughout his brief NFL career when he would get drunk four times a week.
After setting NCAA records for most single-season and career touchdowns during his time with the Badgers, Ball was widely expected to be a focal point of the Broncos’ offense after being selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. But after three seasons in Denver, he was released and the only memory he left behind was being considered one of the biggest draft bust in league history.
Ball said he regrets not paying attention to the advice he was given over the course of his career.
“I wouldn’t take any of it seriously,” Ball said. “I was naïve enough to think my playing days would last forever. I would literally sit in the back of the room texting or being on Instagram not paying attention to the professional explaining to me about preparing for life after football and how important it is.
“I failed to use my platform to help others and to use the NFL as a stepping stone in life. 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.”
One of Ball’s biggest regrets was not accepting help that was offered to him by Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville, who told Ball after one meeting that he could smell alcohol on his breath.
“He talked about how he could smell the alcohol on me and that he thinks I may have a problem with drinking,” Ball told the website. “He said if I needed any help with that he could reach out to people
I could talk to. I didn’t listen to him.”
The Broncos waived Ball in 2015 and he signed with the New England Patriots, but he only made it as far as the practice squad. He watched the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers from his jail cell after he was arrested on a felony battery charge Feb. 5 of last year.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “At one point, I was on top of the world and now watching the team that cut me a few months prior from a jail cell, that stung a lot.”
He was sentenced to 60 days in jail last August after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and battery for his role in two domestic abuse incidents.
Ball told the Sporting News that alcoholism runs in his family, starting with his grandfather and then his father.
Ball said “the turning point” for him was finding out he was going to be a father after a past girlfriend from Denver told him in a telephone call that she was pregnant. He says the birth of his son, Maverick, made him realize that his purpose was to raise his kid.
Balls, who is now back at Wisconsin enrolled as a student, said he hopes to open a charitable foundation and is writing a book about his struggle with alcoholism.