August 13, 2012
Two stories previously covered by this writer for Jockspin.com – that of Wisconsin running back Montee Ball’s assault on the streets of Madison by five unidentified men on Aug. 1 and last week’s dismissal of cornerback Tyrann Mathieu from Louisiana State University – each gave cause for revisiting this past weekend, and are the main focus of this particular article.
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On the subject of Ball:
The Wisconsin Badgers star running back was back in practice last week – albeit, involved strictly in non-contact drills, where it is expected he’ll remain for the next week or so – and Sunday, spoke to media outside Camp Randall Stadium for the first time since his Aug. 1 assault.
Ball addressed speculation that a precipitating incident – rumors hint at a fight involving Ball and other UW football players – was the cause of his off-campus attack, denying any involvement in any type of altercation.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Ball told reporters, noting he could speak little more on the topic due to an ongoing investigation by local law enforcement.
“But I can 100 percent tell you that I had nothing to do with the first fight, honestly,” the Badgers tailback stated emphatically.
Ball did reveal his decision to go out on the night of Aug. 1 was a “last-minute” one, but said, “We weren’t getting rowdy or anything.”
“I was just heading right back to my place a block away and I was attacked,” he continued. “That’s all I remember.”
“I’m very blessed because it obviously could have been a lot worse,” Ball concluded.
Head coach Bret Bielema separately noted Ball had requested to speak to certain members of the team at the start of training camp in order to clear the air, where Ball said he ”apologized for the situation and what they’ve had to deal with.”
“I also told them, ‘I’m all in to win with you guys,’” Ball added. “I just felt it was the time to say that just so every knows, ‘I’m all in.’”
Ball’s address apparently made a powerful impact, with backup running back James White commenting, “He let us know that he was a responsible kid and was ready to get back on the field and help us have a successful season.”
Quarterback Curt Phillips built on White’s statements, adding, “It was big. Being the type of talented player that [Ball] is, he’s an even better person. We know who he is and what he stands for. We expect him to put up great numbers like he did last year.”
For all the positive energy which has come from UW teammates in the time since the Aug. 1 assault, Ball acknowledges that some outside of the program have begun to question his character, especially in light of a second incident earlier this spring where Ball was arrested for trespassing during May’s Mifflin Street block party.
“It really shows me how much I do live my life in a fish bowl and how big a microscope that is on top of me,” Ball says. “Everybody is watching to see what I do as soon as I steop out of my apartment.”
Ball remains determined to not put too much credit in the criticisms issued by others as a result of the two incidents, however.
“[People] who know me know who I am and what type of kid I am,” Ball maintains. “It’s a learning experience. You live and you learn and I’m going to thank the Lord and count my blessings.”
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On Tyrann Mathieu:
The expectation coming out of Friday’s dismissal from the LSU football program of defensive back Tyrann Mathieu due to what local media claimed was a second failed drug test in less than a year was that the standout corner would seek an immediate transfer outside of Baton Rouge to play for an FCS program such as McNeese State prior to declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Sources close to Mathieu are now saying however that Mathieu may elect to take the proverbial high road in the matter and, instead, remain in class at LSU in hopes of returning to the program once again next fall.
Mathieu, described as “heartbroken” and “grieving” since his dismissal from the team late last week, appears sincere about turning over a new leaf, talking to those closest to him, reports ESPN.com, about “working on his maturity and character and also in seeking out any way to continue his education at LSU.”
Options of either transferring to McNeese State – Mathieu has, in fact, visited the school – or entering the NFL draft after the 2012 season both remain on the table.
Interesting enough, though, as it relates to the latter, Mathieu apparently has told friends and family his draft status is “not a priority at this time.”
Should Mathieu remain at LSU this fall, he would have to pay his own way, as his dismissal Friday included a loss of scholarship funds.
Still, the prospect remains a possibility given that Mathieu was dismissed from the football program, but not the university itself.
Joe Schad of ESPN.com notes a possible return to the playing field at LSU for Mathieu is a long shot at best, and something that would have to be approved by university administration and head coach Les Miles.
Yet, it is a subject “being discussed,” Schad writes, and could open a door that just three days ago looked sealed shut to the Tigers’ most exciting player and one of the SEC’s most talented corners and return specialists.