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January 3, 2012

Leaping to the pros?

PASADENA - As Montee Ball walked into the post game press conference following yet another harrowing, heartbreaking and stunning loss - - this one to end UW's ultra-exciting 2011 season inside the Rose Bowl - - he kept that same motivated look on his face.

A year ago at this time the then sophomore tailback found motivation to lose 20-25 pounds after he felt he left yards on the field due to his size and rather lacking mobility.

This year, with a major decision on his hands, Ball is going to use his performance - - especially considering it was a rather strong one - - as the determining factor that either vaults him to a career in the NFL or back to Madison for his senior year.

He plans to make his decision known in the coming days.

"I have a big decision to make," Ball, fresh off his 215 total yards and one touchdown day, said. "I'm going to make it within the next couple of days and I'll make sure you guys know and that I let my teammates know."

With his second-quarter touchdown against Oregon, Ball etched his name in college football history. He will now be forever linked with NFL Hall of Famer Barry Sanders as he tied his single-season record with 39 total touchdowns.

"It's been an honor since day one when I was being mentioned with him," Ball said. "It will stick that way. As the game was going on I was trying to look for the victory. Get the 'W' on the chart. But like I said, it is what it is. I had a great season.

"I'll look back on this season and if I decide to come back I'll make sure I carry forward what I did this season to next season."

Ball finished the season with 1,923 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns. He tacked on another 306 yards receiving and six receiving touchdowns to help him surpass the 2,000-yard mark for the season.

Ball's 2,229 total yards put a cap on a historical season that nobody is going to soon forget.

"I do know the reason Montee got that record is he prepares and puts himself in a frame of mind going into every game this year as good as anybody I've ever been around," UW head coach Bret Bielema said. "He's truly a blessed individual with a lot of athleticism.

"But he got that record because of the way he works."

It seems as though that work ethic will land Ball in the NFL a year early.


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