Former MCHS Bulldog great Derrick Ballard takes time to speak to rising 2008 team
By Patrick Yost
Derrick Ballard has played football for the NFL’s Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons and in NFL Europe for the Amsterdam Admirals. A four-year starter at Memphis State, the linebacker closed out his college career with 314 tackles and was named third team All Conference USA after his senior season.
The 2000 graduate of Morgan County High School was all–regions, all–conference everything during his high school career in football, basketball and soccer.
Sports, specifically football, has been good to the 26–year–old. “I’ve been fortunate,” he said Saturday moments before speaking to the 2008 Morgan County High School football team. “I’ve been blessed. It’s taken me a lot of places.”
Standing in the open air of the new Morgan County High School gym, Ballard collected on his experiences to relay one important message to the team.
“There’s stuff bigger than football,” he said.
While much of his talk focused on preparation, working hard in the off–season, understanding that at it’s very core football is a team sport, Ballard also touched on life lessons the two–time class president at MCHS had learned.
“At the end of the day there are things more important than football. You’ve got to take care of things in the classroom, on the field, in society.”
Ballard commended the team for their work, their dedication. He empathized with the invisible toil that the team was enduring to prepare for its upcoming season. “I’m glad you guys are here doing something productive with your lives.”
The 240–pound outside linebacker, who was expected to come off medical waivers on Monday following knee surgery, said he was hoping to continue his career in the NFL and possibly might play in the Canadian Football League. Throughout both his college and professional career, Ballard told the team that beyond preparation, beyond talent, one other factor defined a great football player.
“All you need is heart. If you have heart, you can play football.”
Ballard said after his sports career he hopes to either become a sports analyst or possibly a high school coach.
Bulldog Head Coach Bill Malone told the players that Ballard should serve as a role model, not only in dedication and training, but in life.
“Derrick Ballard is a great guy. When I talk to you about what kind of man I want you to be, this man is what I’m talking about.”