Former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball left school six years ago to pursue an NFL career. He has returned to campus and wants to make an impact off the field.
Ball has partnered with the school’s athletics department to establish the Montee Ball Fund, which is aimed at providing additional funding for mental health and education support services for student-athletes at the university. Funds may be used for specialized counseling, addiction education programs or other services.
Ball will host his first Swing Fore Recovery golf tournament on June 15 to raise money to benefit the fund. The event will take place at The Bridges Golf Course in Madison.
The cause is one that is close to Ball, who has battled his own addiction with alcoholism. Land of 10 profiled Ball and his path to sobriety in November and recently caught up with Ball to discuss his push to provide mental health awareness on campus.
Q: How did this foundation come about? What made you decide to do this?
Ball: For me, I wish there were some resources like this while I was playing. Not to say that there weren’t coaches who weren’t concerned. But I wish there was a program or maybe some funds available to help me out with my addiction here in college. As I got to thinking about it, I was like, ‘You know what? Let me try to do something.’ So, I teamed up with UW Athletics to create the Montee Ball Fund. I think it’s going to do some great things for all student-athletes.
Q: What exactly is the mission? What do you hope to accomplish?
Ball: The Montee Ball Fund has been established to provide mental health in educational services for student-athletes in all sports. So what it’s going to do is it’s going to allow for someone who’s struggling with something to reach out to Kris Eiring, the director of sports psychology. And she’ll be able to direct them in the right direction toward getting help for alcohol or drug addiction or getting help with just understanding some type of mental health barriers they maybe struggle with. So, what I have done is opened up a section for them to provide help for anyone who is maybe struggling with an addiction.
Q: How did you first approach UW athletics with this idea?
Ball: I met with [assistant athletic director for development] Chad Kimmel. I met with them about the idea and he shared with me that it’s a great thing. It’s a need. Funds are needed in that department, the sports psychology department, and once we got the logistics down, sign this, sign that for the fund, it’s a go.
Q: You’ve said Melvin Gordon will be at the golf outing. Who else will attend?
Ball: We’ve got Beau Allen pending. Melvin Gordon, Ron Dayne, Bradie Ewing, Dezmen Southward. There’s some good players that are going to come back and help out. Reached out to Russell [Wilson]. Still waiting to hear back. But Melvin for sure. He’s a really close friend of mine, so he understands what it’s for, and he’s looking to support it.
Q: Is this something you hope can become an annual event?
Ball: Yes. Every year around the summer to continuously keep dumping money into the Montee Ball Fund to help out student-athletes.
Q: You mentioned when we talked before that you hoped to graduate in the spring. Is that still on track?
Ball: No, it’s not. My hope is to graduate after the fall semester. But that, right now, that’s going to happen. Most definitely going to happen.
Q: How is everything else with you?
Ball: Everything is great. I came out the other end stronger. I’m a free man. My mind is strong. I’m still sober. So, I’m looking forward to now giving back to the student-athletes in all sports at the University of Wisconsin.
For more information on the golf tournament, including registration information, click here.