Former UW Badger Montee Bell Authors Nowhere to Run: Running on Empty
By Jonathan Gramling
Montee Ball now has two reasons to be called great. As most of us know in Madison and Wisconsin, Ball was a famed running back on the UW Badger football team from 2009-2012. Ball holds the NCAA single season records for most touchdowns: 39 tied, most consecutive games with two or more touchdowns: 13, most points scored by non-kicker: 236 and the career record for most touchdowns: 83.
Ball now is also great for writing “Nowhere to Run: Discovering Your True Self in the Midst of an Addiction,” — which should be required reading for collegiate student athletes — which chronicles Ball’s fall from greatness to the bottom, only to realize his most meaningful purpose in life.
When the Denver Broncos released Ball and he was out of work, he came back to Wisconsin. He was picked up by the New England Patriots in December and placed on their practice squad. Ball watched as the Denver Broncos defeated the New England Patriots on January 24th.
“I met a woman,” Ball said. “At that moment, I was just drinking every day. She was partying and drinking every day. I was attracted to someone else who was just partying as much as I was. You get attracted to what you are. To make a long story short, I was drunk and made a mistake. I pushed her out of anger. But at this moment in my life, I was very angry with myself because I knew that alcohol had taken my passion away, my joy for the game of football. All I was thinking about was drinking and partying. I was angry with myself, angry that the Broncos just beat us. The team that had just released me just beat the team I was now on and went to the Super Bowl.”
Ball was arrested on February 5th, the Saturday before Super Bowl 50.
“I ended up watching the Broncos win the Super Bowl in jail,” Ball said. “It was wild. February 7th was when we played in 2016 and I was in jail because I was arrested at 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. I had to sit until Monday to see a judge. I was in a cell with about six other inmates and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. They knew I had played for the Broncos and they were saying, ‘That should be you up there holding the trophy. You’re supposed to be a role model to us.’ It was what I needed.”
Ball had hit rock bottom, but his redemption came when his son was born.
“I didn’t even know that he existed,” Ball said about his son. A woman back in Colorado told me that she was 7-8 months pregnant with allegedly my son. After the paternity test, it was proven that he was my child. And that was it for me. That turned my life around. I told myself that I had to figure it out because there was someone else who literally was depending on me, my sanity and mental health and well-being.”
And if Ball was going to be any use to his son, then he was going to have to take a deep look at himself to figure out who Montee Ball really was.
“When I started my sobriety, I struggled with trying to figure out who I am outside of the game of football,” Ball said. “I had no idea. I started when I was eight-years-old and that is when I ate, drank and literally dreamed about football until the age of 25. What I am doing now, I finally figured out what my purpose is. I realized this is something to me that is way more important than a game.”
Ball had a lot to figure out.
“I was in therapy for about three times per week,” Ball said. “I was doing intensive out-patient, which was 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursday. And then I hopped into a one-on-one therapy for two years. I took a little break, but now I am back in. And now I see my therapist once per month. And I am doing very, very well. I will be five years sober from alcohol on August 1st of this year. And things are going very well for me.”
Ball can’t unring the bell on that day when he committed battery, an event that forever set his path away from football.
“I’m fortunate to have gone through all of that crap before the age of 30,” Ball said. “You can hang that one mistake over my head and judge me for the rest of your life. That’s fine. I can’t change your opinion. But if I make one mistake in my entire life, I think that is a really good life. I’m not minimizing my mistake. I want people to understand that. There is no minimization there. I owned it. I did my time. I took care of everything I needed to take care of. But if you want to continuously judge me on that, so be it.”
Ball is doing well these days. He reports that his son is now five-years-old and doing well. And professionally, Ball splits his time selling real estate and being a recovery coach.
“I talk about mental health, about substance abuse and substance abuse recovery,” Ball said “I talk about how we can help our Black and Brown kids who have been struggling with said topic for decades, for decades and decades and decades. Outside of being an author, having written my first book, I am very excited about that, I am also a recovery coach. That has been wonderful.”
Hopefully people can learn about Ball’s tale of rising, falling and rising again in his book “Nowhere to Run: Discovering Your True Self in the Midst of an Addiction.” It’s a fall not worth repeating.
Montee Ball’s book, “Nowhere to Run: Discovering Your True Self in the Midst of an Addiction,” can be purchased by visiting www.monteeball.com. While it has a link to Amazon, from time to time, people will be able to purchase a signed copy of the book directly from Ball on his website.