MADISON - Although his goal to come back to win the Heisman Trophy will fall short, senior tailback Montee Ball will have to settle for being named the top running back in the country.
The Wisconsin senior was named the best running back in college football Thursday when he was presented with the Doak Walker Award during The Home Depot College Football Awards at Walt Disney World outside Orlando, Florida.
A finalist for the second-consecutive season, Ball finished ahead of fellow Doak Walker finalists Kenjon Barner of Oregon and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA for the honor, which has been presented to the nation’s most outstanding running back each year since 1989.
“I think of Montee, I think of how he transformed his body from the time he got here,” said UW interim head coach Barry Alvarez. “From coming from a third teamer at Iowa a few years ago and winning the game, to being prepared in the fourth quarter to perform and win that game on the road, to see him come back, have the year that he had last year, all the issues that he had early on.
“I could see how frustrated you could get early in the year when you get the ball, you've got the best back in America, and it's third and one, and you're holding your breath, or you run a power play, and there's no place to go. I could see how he got frustrated. But never once did I see him say anything negative, had negative body language. He just kept plugging along and ended up having the year we all expected.
“That all went along with the offensive line getting better. I'm very proud of how he's handled himself and how he never got frustrated and continued to work. I'm pleased that he's being honored and people, other people recognize it.”
Ball is the NCAA’s all-time leader in touchdowns with 82 and also holds the NCAA career record for rushing touchdowns with 76. He ranks in a tie for fourth all-time among Big Ten players with 5,040 career rushing yards and became the 17th player in FBS history to surpass 5,000 yards.
Ball has rushed for 200-plus yards four times in his career and has 25 100-yard rushing games to his credit, including nine this season. He ranks third nationally this season with 1,730 rushing yards and ranks in a tie for fourth with 21 rushing touchdowns.
The two-time defending Ameche-Dayne Big Ten Running Back of the Year award winner, Ball led the Big Ten in rushing and scoring during conference play to become the first player to lead the league in scoring in three consecutive seasons since at least 1939.
Named the Grange-Griffin Big Ten Championship Game MVP for his three-touchdown performance in UW’s 70-31 win over Nebraska in the 2012 Big Ten Football Championship Game, Ball is a finalist for the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football award for the second-consecutive year. He won the award presented annually to the Big Ten’s MVP last season.
Ball becomes Wisconsin’s second Doak Walker Award winner, joining 1999 winner Ron Dayne, and was named to the Walter Camp All-America team for the second-consecutive season. Wisconsin has boasted a Doak Walker finalist each of the last three seasons, with John Clay earning a finalist nod in 2010 before Ball’s back-to-back nominations. UW has had eight Doak Walker semifinalists over the past 15 seasons.