Former University of Wisconsin and Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball says he drank heavily throughout his college and NFL careers, and that through counseling he has accepted he is an alcoholic.
Now sober, Ball is enrolled at Wisconsin for summer classes. He told the Sporting News that his heavy drinking began in 2011, his junior season for the Badgers, and throughout his brief NFL career when he would get drunk four times a week.
He said he regrets not taking advice given to him in the NFL seriously.
"I wouldn't take any of it seriously," Ball told the Sporting News. "I was naïve 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.
"I failed to use my platform to help others and to use the NFL as a steppingstone in life. I surrounded myself with bad people, not on the team but in the city. I was naïve enough to believe I had all the answers. I'm still kicking myself in the butt for that."
Ball said Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville told him after one meeting that he could smell alcohol on his breath.
"He talked about how he could smell the alcohol on me and that he thinks I may have a problem with drinking," Ball told the website. "He said if I needed any help with that he could reach out to people I could talk to. I didn't listen to him."
The Broncos waived Ball in 2015 after selecting him in the second round of the 2013 draft. The New England Patriots signed him to their practice squad in 2015, but he never played a game for the team. He watched the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers from his jail cell after he was arrested on a felony battery charge Feb. 5 of last year.
"It brought tears to my eyes," he told the Sporting News. "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."
He was sentenced to 60 days in jail last August after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and battery for his role in two domestic abuse incidents.
In the Feb. 5 incident, his girlfriend told police he had thrown her across a Madison hotel room. A month later, a previous girlfriend told police she had been assaulted by Ball in 2014. He told the Sporting News that he has evidence to show the previous girlfriend was lying but decided to accept a plea deal as he was facing six charges, including two felonies, and didn't think he would receive a fair trial because he is black and because of his history.
Also last year, Ball learned he was a father when a past girlfriend from Denver told him in a telephone call that she was pregnant. He says the birth of his son, Maverick, "was the turning point" for him as he "realized I have a purpose to raise that kid."
His addiction and mental health therapist told the Sporting News that Ball's turnaround began last summer.
"He acknowledged being an alcoholic, which is a significant thing, and coming from a domestic violence background himself," Cory Devine told the website. "He recognized, 'This is a pattern I've got to stop. It's my responsibility to do so.'"
Ball told the Sporting News that alcoholism runs in his family, starting with his grandfather and then his father.
Now back as a student at Wisconsin, he told the website he is "focused on improving my image and relationships I destroyed." He said he hopes to open a charitable foundation and is writing a book about his struggle with alcoholism.