The expectations for Broncos rookie running back Montee Ball are Mile-High coming into this season in Denver and with good reason. The 22-year-old has captured the attention of the most influential member of the Broncos organization, Peyton Manning.
Manning is too much of pro to show his hand to the media, but his body language on the practice field tells us everything we need to know, Montee Ball is the guy Manning wants with him in the backfield.
At 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, Ball is a power back who’s 83 all-purpose touchdowns set an NCAA record when he played in the Big Ten Conference for Wisconsin. Despite his prowess as an accomplished college running back, Ball has shown a willingness to learn new skills that is a rare for such a young player.
Ball displays a maturity far beyond that of a 22-year-old and is a true student of the game. His intellectual passion for football coupled with a burning desire to win are the same qualities that make Manning one of the best quarterbacks of his generation.
The former Badger is saying all the right things and showing a hunger for the game that resonates with Manning. Despite being an explosive runner with a nose for the end zone, Ball is working tirelessly to become a personal shield for Manning. His willingness to learn and adopt a pass blocker mentality will only cement his relationship with the veteran quarterback who is desperate for another Super Bowl ring.
Ball still faces plenty of competition for the starting job coming into the new season against veteran running backs Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno, as well as second-year player Ronnie Hillman.
McGahee is 31-years-old and trying to come back from a broken leg while Moreno is still recovering from an offseason stem-cell procedure on his right knee. Hillman is healthy, but is much more suited to a change of pace role.
As a rookie, Ball isn’t a lock to start the season as the lead back, but holding him back will only delay the inevitable. This Bronco is ready to break the reins and run wild next to Peyton Manning.