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January 6, 2012MADISON - Tag Montee Ball's superfluous season, and decision to return for his senior year, as the driving force for what remains to be seen.
He's already rapped back at his critics - - the same people that clamor he's done enough at the collegiate level and should parlay that into an early NFL departure - - saying that nobody knows what he's capable of.
In Ball's mind, he's not entirely sure if the timing is right. He's not entirely certain he's ready to leave the big-man-on-campus perch. The college years, as most anybody that has experienced them would say, represent the best time of your life.
Maybe Ball isn't ready to leave what life has become for him at Wisconsin.
Or maybe his decision to return, one that caught a fair number of people by surprise, is fueled entirely by his motivation to earn a higher grade than the third round slot the NFL Draft advisory board slotted him in.
"I was very disappointed," Ball said. "I do believe I'm better than the third round. So once I saw that I kind of was leaning more towards coming back for my players and myself.
"I'm looking forward to bettering my stock and preparing even harder in the offseason."
A cynic would argue that there's no way Ball could better his draft position, especially considering his third round grade stemmed from a season where Ball rushed for 1,921 yards, totaled more than 2,200 yards and tied a national single season record by scoring 39 touchdowns.
It's simply not realistic to think those numbers can be equaled or bettered, especially considering Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby won't be anchoring the right side of the line anymore.
"What I'm looking forward to is getting stronger," Ball said. "I lack a lot of strength. Losing all the weight that I lost, I believe I lost a lot of strength. What I plan on doing in the offseason is attacking the weight room and putting on about 10 pounds.
"I also believe that by attacking the weight room I'll become faster out on the field."
Ball currently weighs 206 or 207 pounds. He, along with the NFL draft advisory board, would like to see Ball play at 215 pounds during his senior season.
"That's really something I'm going to work on throughout the spring," Ball said. "See how my body can carry 215 pounds and see if I can increase my speed. Other than that I know for a fact I will better myself. I will be able to shed a lot more tackles. I believe I'll be a lot stronger and a lot faster.
"Obviously it will better this team."
Additionally, Ball mentioned the Heisman trophy on a number of occasions. Without putting words in his mouth, it's remains apparent that individual accolades mean something to Ball. Knowing that, Ball remained adamant about team success making individual success plausible.
There's no question Ball has his sights set on the Heisman and the prestige that trophy brings to a college athlete. He's also focused on cementing his legacy as one of the best backs to play in Madison.
These are all things Ball is cognizant of.
"I chose this university because I really loved the tradition here," Ball said. "Just to say I've become a part of that tradition forever is something I always looked up to as a child.
"These four years that I'll be here I want to make sure I put a huge stamp on this university."