2013 NFL Combine: Montee Ball embodies the boring, yet important, aspects of good running backs

Harry How

While addressing the media at the 2013 NFL Combine on Friday afternoon, former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball said his biggest three strengths are absolutely nothing exciting.

INDIANAPOLIS -- While addressing the media at the 2013 NFL Combine on Friday afternoon, former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was asked a question that every single person who ever interviewed for a job, ever, was asked: "What are your strengths?" In a room filled with future millionaires and professional athletes, you'd think he would say "my ability to run defenders over," or "my strength," or even "my taste in movies," but that wasn't the case. Instead, Ball picked the three most boring, though important, aspects of any good running back.

"Accountability, durability and consistent," Ball said. "I'm extremely consistent. You can count on me when I have the ball in my hands -- 924 carries, only two fumbles. So I do a great job of protecting the football. I score touchdowns. You can count on me to make the play and be there for you."

It's true. While at Wisconsin, Ball wasn't as exciting as running backs like former Alabama back Trent Richardson or former Boise State back Doug Martin, but he always kept his head down and his nose to the grindstone. With a powerful offensive line in front of him, Ball always seemed to move the Badgers closer to the end zone, even if it was in small chunks.

One would think that any running back that scored 77 touchdowns in a four-year career and racked up over 5,000 yards would have much more to say about what NFL teams would like about him. Not Montee, though.

When he was asked to compare himself to an NFL back, he didn't immediately yell out Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster or any other back grouped in with today's elite. Instead he said he has modeled his game after hall of fame running back Curtis Martin.

"Nothing really stands out -- like speed or strength, but we're very balanced over and very consistent," he said.

It's true. Martin was consistent. He had 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and finished his career with 90 touchdowns. He has the fourth-most rushing yards of any back in league history. Any current, running back-needy coach would welcome him, in his prime, into their backfield with open arms.

The pre-draft process consists of several workouts and meetings with multiple coaches. The combine is the best, and only, place to see all the running backs stand next to each other and showcase their abilities in shorts and shirts with no pads and nobody trying to hit them. Coaches will be paying attention to 40-yard dash times as well as the numbers posted in the other various drills.

Many coaches stated, though, that the one-on-one interviews were the most important part of the combine, many actually stating that they wish they could extend the period of time in which they meet and talk to prospects. That's where Ball is hoping he can separate himself from the rest of the field that may be faster or stronger.

"I'm really looking forward to the formal interviews where we sit down and talk to the teams and really show them how well I can apply my intelligence to the playbook and to the game, which gives me an advantage," he said.

This year's running back class is fairly deep. Giovanni Bernard and Eddie Lacy have commanded much of the attention as there are a wide variety of backs to choose from. Ball isn't the most physically gifted. He's not the fastest and he's not the strongest. It could be easy to see him selected in the third round of the draft while other backs come off the board and teams focus more on other positions.

Martin was a third-round pick as well. If Ball is the second coming of Martin, a team will be lucky to have him.

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