When we last spoke with Colts rookie running back Vick Ballard, he was trying to stay focused mentally despite limited reps in a crowded backfield. If his first carries in the NFL are any indication, Ballard will be earning more time on the field in practice and less time on the sideline.
Ballard entered Sunday’s preseason opener with the St. Louis Rams late in the first half. The Colts were already up 21-3, but the Rams had just pinned them deep in their own end after an outstanding punt. With the ball resting in the shadow of their own goal post and less than two minutes remaining until halftime, the coaching staff just needed the offense to hold on to the football and at least give punter Pat McAfee enough room to get a kick away without allowing the Rams to gain any momentum before the half.
New offensive coordinator Bruce Arians entrusted Ballard with that responsibility and Ballard responded with three tough runs for 27 yards before the gun sounded. Ballard’s runs not only got the Colts out of harm’s way deep in their own territory, they were enough to cause the Colts to use a timeout and at least ponder one more shot at scoring.
Ballard admitted he had a few butterflies entering the game in such a precarious position, but once he got the football, his instincts took over.
“The O-line did their job and held their blocks. I had the easy part,” Ballard related after the game. “I had some butterflies at first, but they went away once I started running.”
Ballard said that he didn’t really see anything Sunday that he wasn’t prepared for. For that, he gave all the credit to the coaching staff for preparing them so thoroughly. He did, however, notice an immediate difference in the kinds of hits given out in the NFL compared to what he got in college at Mississippi State.
” There’s a little more ‘thump’ behind them, no doubt. At the end of the day though, it’s still football, so you get used to it.”
Ballard finished the day as the Colts’ leading rusher picking up 28 yards on six carries for a 4.7 yards per carry average. He also made a nice shoe-top grab of a Drew Stanton pass in the flat that picked up 11 yards.
While the day’s attention was primarily focused on the auspicious debut of the other Colts rookie in the backfield, Vick Ballard more than held his own at a critical juncture in the game. Ballard hopes that performance will cause his coaches to take notice as he battles for a roster spot. In the meantime, he’ll continue to study and focus and await his next opportunity next Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Chuck Chapman is entering his second season as the editor and lead writer for Colts 101. He also covered the Cincinnati Bengals for the Sports Media 101. Chuck and his family are originally from Ohio, but have settled in Central Indiana and become big Colts fans. You can read Chuck’s other writing about the Colts at www.colts101.com.
Tags: bruce arians, drew stanton, vick ballard
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