Former running back Montee Ball played two seasons for the Denver Broncos and was a two-time consensus All-American at Wisconsin, and he recently opened up about his football career and his struggles with alcohol.
In a piece released Wednesday by Alex Marvez of Sporting News, Ball revealed he started drinking heavily and partying as a junior with the Badgers in 2011. He didn't stop while he was with the Broncos or after they released him in 2015.
"I wouldn't take any of it seriously," Ball said, per Marvez. "I was naive 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."
He discussed his missed opportunities as well: "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 naive enough to believe I had all the answers. I'm still kicking myself in the butt for that."
The New England Patriots signed Ball to their practice squad after Denver released him, but he never appeared in a game.
He also watched the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 from jail because of a felony battery charge after an incident with his then-girlfriend. "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."
Marvez noted Ball accepted a plea deal after a different woman made a separate domestic violence accusation. Ball said it didn't happen but accepted a 60-day jail sentence to be served as house arrest, 18 months probation and alcohol and domestic violence counseling because he didn't think he'd receive a fair trial as a black football player in the aftermath of Ray Rice's domestic violence incident.
Ball eventually found out he would become a father from a woman he dated in Denver and called that "the turning point."
"I finally realized I have a purpose—to raise that kid," he said. "That's a responsibility I will take."
He will be taking summer classes at Wisconsin.
Marvez said Ball isn't looking to return to football even at just 26 years old and is planning to complete his sociology degree before entering a master's program. He is also writing a book.