By TOM LEA
MADISON — Montee Ball was the first player to walk into the McClain Center on the University of Wisconsin campus Wednesday afternoon. He was dressed in a black sweatshirt and matching black sweatpants, both of which sharply contrasted the white ‘Beats by Dre’ headphones he was bobbing his head to.
He looked like a man entirely focused, with redemption squarely planted in his mind.
He didn’t like the fact he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at last month’s combine in Indianapolis and wanted to prove that was a fluke by beating that number during Wisconsin’s annual pro timing day.
“What people see on TV is only about 25 percent of the entire combine,” Ball said. “They make sure to really evaluate you in every way possible. I was sick. I had a sinus infection two days before and I had just gotten medicine for it.
“I was coming off that and I was disappointed with (my 40 time). I knew I was faster than that. I ran faster today, much faster than the 4.66 I ran in Indy.”
Nearly two-tenths of a second faster, to be exact.
Ball, with hopes of silencing any critics that may have thought twice about his ability when he ran a somewhat eye-opening 40-yard dash, approached the line.
The first time he sprinted 40 yards he did so in 4.53 seconds, a number not considered blazing by running back standards, but one that was already better than any time he ran during the combine.
The second time — a 4.46 effort — was more what he was hoping for.
“I was very excited,” Ball said. “I was very excited because I knew I was capable of getting under a 4.5. A 4.46? I’m very proud of myself and very happy.”
Ball, who also ran the short shuttle drill in 4.11 seconds (down from the 4.40 number he mustered at the combine), long shuttle and positional drills, spent time chatting with a number of NFL scouts that made the trip to Madison.
He even had an opportunity to talk with Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who actually encouraged Ball to run the long shuttle even though the former Badger standout had never previously ran it.
“He just talked to me about all the good stuff I’ve been doing on tape,” Ball said. “He said I know how to play football and that I’ve been doing all the right things. He’s very excited about me. He congratulated me on my career and said I did a good job.
“He said I did a great job today and that I showed what I’m capable of doing.”
Ball, as the NCAA’s all-time leader in total touchdowns, obviously has an impressive highlight film. He is very confident in what he accomplished during his four seasons in Madison and hopes that film, combined with how he has performed both at the combine and UW’s pro day, will help him realize his dream of being drafted into the NFL.
Even if his name isn’t called during the opening round.
“I was actually talking to a lot of players about a week or two ago,” Ball said. “In college you always want to say you go first round, but once you get here you just want to get drafted. I just hope I get drafted.
“I would love to go first round, but honestly I just want to get drafted.”
Ball said he hasn’t decided what he’s going to do come draft night. He may head to New York City on his own if he’s not formally invited, or he may just stay back in Madison and see where he’s selected in the comfort of his family’s home.
He plans to stay in Madison from now until late April, with plans to continue the training that has helped him to this point.
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
“I wanted to show them that my weaknesses are always going to be worked on,” Ball said. “My weakness has always been speed. Hopefully I showed that I’ve been working on improving that (today).”