New Orleans Saints

Injury-plagued RB Ballard plans on 'rising to the top' with Saints

ST. MARTIN - Pascagoula native Vick Ballard had quite the tale to tell Wednesday when he relayed the story of his football career to the St. Martin High School football team.

He's working hard to making sure the final chapter doesn't involve being carted off the Indianapolis Colts practice field with a torn Achilles tendon in 2014.

In an effort to resurrect his injury-plagued career, the running back signed a futures with the New Orleans Saints in February. Ballard joins a long list of running backs hoping to be the man taking hand-offs from Drew Brees in 2016.

A torn ACL ended Ballard's 2013 season after one game. The Achilles injury ended his 2014 campaign before it started and kept him off the field in 2015.

Despite dealing with multiple setbacks, he showed up at St. Martin Wednesday in good spirits.

"I feel good just to have a year under my belt where I haven't had to have a surgery," Ballard said. "I'm just trying to keep the momentum going and hope it carries over into the season."

The former Pascagoula, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC and Mississippi State running back told the teenagers about the hurdles he's managed to overcome as a player. He's faced plenty at each stage.

Ballard was a backup running back at Pascagoula High School, overlooked as a college prospect.

On a partial scholarship at Mississippi Gulf Coast CC, he started where he left off at 'Goula as a backup running back. As a sophomore at MGCCC, the tide began to turn for Ballard. He rushed for 1,728 yards and 22 touchdowns to earn a scholarship offer from Mississippi State.

At State, he rushed for a two-year total of 2,157 yards and 29 touchdowns to earn a fifth-round selection by the Colts in 2012.

Ballard had a breakout rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 when he accounted for 966 yards of total offense and three touchdowns, but he has been stuck in football limbo ever since.

He only has 13 regular season carries over the last three years thanks to injuries.

"It's been tough," Ballard said. "I don't want to make it seem like I'm Superman and it didn't faze me. It was a lot of growth, a lot of hurt and pain. The positive side is I learned a lot about myself and a lot about football. Those are things that can facilitate me being a better player."

Ballard, who was waived by the Colts in September of 2015, played down the idea that he will be rusty when he gets his first game action.

"When I left Indy last year, I started working out then," he said. "I started preparing for the next season. I've been training the whole time. Once I get back on the field, it will be like riding a bike. You never forget how to ride a bike."

Ballard will have a battle on his hands to earn a spot on the Saints roster. Mark Ingram, Tim Hightower, C.J. Spiller, Marcus Murphy and Travaris Cadet all received time at running back last season.

"If you look at (the list of running backs), it's a little overwhelming," Ballard said. "But one thing I learned from all this time off is I can't worry about everything else. All you can do is worry about yourself. You stack those good days up and go for the best."

When he gets his chance to shine with the Saints, Ballard is determined to make it count. He may be an underdog on the Saints roster, but he's been in that position before.

"Everywhere I've been, I end up rising to the top," he said. "I don't plan on it being any different over there.

"I'm a baller. Just give me the ball and tell me where to be, what to do and I'll do it. It doesn't matter what system it is. I produce."