MADISON, Wis. - Montee Ball is proof that "once a Badger, always a Badger."
The former Wisconsin football standout has had a tumultuous six years, to say the least. The proud Badger was twice recognized as the best running back in the Big Ten Conference, was a consensus first-team All American, and was a second-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos in 2013.
Leg injuries cut his Broncos career short, and he was released after his second season in Denver. Ball was signed to the Patriots practice squad in 2016, but he never made the active roster. He was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to 60 days in jail after a domestic incident at a Madison hotel. Ball said he'd been struggling with his mental health since his college days, and things didn't get better when he went to the NFL.
"I started to really feel isolated out there in Colorado. I kinda didn't have anybody to speak to. The same situation I had here. Just suffering from depression. From there I just went downhill," Ball told News 3 in May. "I was able to get therapy, own up to my mistake and let the world know that I'm human. I'm not minimizing what I've done, but from here forward I gotta make changes."
Ball says the biggest step he took was admitting that he needed help.
"The biggest step is understanding what you need help in, and saying that 'I need help.' That's why I wanted to go this route and tell people it's okay if there's something you're struggling with. It's fine. Reach out to somebody and receive the help that you need."
Now, Ball is bringing his message back to the UW. He started the Montee Ball Fund to help raise money for mental health support services on campus, which will be used for specialized counseling and addiction education programs.
The first major fundraising event is the "Swing Fore Recovery" golf outing on June 15. The event will be hosted at The Bridges golf course on the east side.
More than 20 former Badger stars have committed to help the cause. The "celebrity" lineup includes Melvin Gordon, Jared Abbrederis, Chris Borland, Jordan Taylor, Scott Tolzien, John Clay, Lexi Greytak, Darius Feaster, Matt Bernstein, Devin Smith, Bradie Ewing, Warren Herring, Richard Kirtley, Gary Ellerson, TJ Theus, Jr., Sherard Cadogan, Jeffrey Lewis, Nick Hill, and Kyle Wojta.
"I am honored and grateful to have former and current athletes take time out of their schedule to help raise funds for specialized counseling," said Ball. "'Once a Badger, always a Badger' isn't just a saying."
Ball hopes his efforts and the collective help of his former Badgers will help current and future athletes get the help they need with regard to mental health.
"Swing Fore Recovery" 2018 schedule:
- 8 a.m.: Registration & coffee
- 9:30 a.m.: Celebrity introductions
- 10 a.m.: Shotgun start
- 3 p.m.: Silent auction/social hour
- 4 p.m.: Dinner
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