(CBS Local)- The NFL Draft is just 25 days away and hundreds of prospects are hoping to hear their names called during the course of the three day event in Cleveland beginning Thursday, April 29 and ending Saturday, May 1. Among those draft hopefuls is Marshall senior offensive tackle Josh Ball.
A Fredericksburg, Virginia native, Ball fell in love with the game at an early age embracing the physical and mental side of it and the opportunity that it gave him to meet new people from all over the country and, around the world as well.
“It’s given me so many opportunities to meet new people from all over the United States and even all over the world as well,” said Ball in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “I love to play football, love the physical part of it, the mental part of it, just love to play the game.”
Ball played multiple sports growing up, crediting baseball for helping him develop hand eye coordination and basketball for helping him to develop his footwork on the football field. He was heavily recruited out of high school, a four-star recruit who played in the U.S. Army High School All America Game before choosing to go to Florida State.
He redshirted his freshman year before playing in nine games during the 2017 season for the Seminoles. However, he was suspended by the university after a disciplinary hearing in early 2018 following allegations of dating violence. Following the suspension, Ball transferred to Butler Community College in Kansas before then signing with Marshall for his final two years of eligibility in 2019. He played on a rotational basis in 2019 before taking over the starting role in 2020.
Now preparing for the Draft, Ball said that he’s particularly focused on making sure that he works on the first punch in his pass sets and bending his knees a little more in those sets in order to continue to improve his game for the next level.
“I think I have a pretty good pass set, I’m pretty quick when getting out and getting out on screens. I’d say my punch on pass sets, my inside hand, I tend to use that a little bit too much and I’ll get turned and guys can get inside easily on me,” said Ball. “When the slide’s to my side my guard helps me out a little bit but when I’m on an island by myself with a five technique I think I need to work on that initial punch, maybe bend my knees a little bit more, not at my waist. Those will all help me be a better football player.”
In looking to develop his game, Ball says that he’s been studying some of the top players at the position pointing to Dallas Cowboys All Pro Tyron Smith as a guy who he has watched to pick up on some of the nuances of the game.
“Tyron Smith, he is one of the guys I love to watch. He’s so physical, he’s a long guy, he’s got long arms similar to me. His body type is insane, he’s definitely a different offensive lineman by his build,” said Ball. “But I love his punch and he does a great job using his hands. He’s very quick as well with his feet getting out into space. I love to study him and we watched a lot of his tape at Marshall. It’s really getting certain little tiny details and characteristics of his game that has really helped me be a better football player for sure.”
Ball had the opportunity to show the work he has put into his game in front of NFL teams at Marshall’s Pro Day on March 10, which had a little extra meaning this year because it was the only time that the players could do on-field drills in front of teams after the COVID pandemic altered the format of the traditional NFL Scouting Combine. He said that while it would have been great to get the opportunity to do the full Combine experience, he was glad to have the opportunity to show what he could do at the Pro Day early in the process which now allows him to focus specifically on his technique ahead of the draft.
— Marshall Football (@HerdFB) March 10, 2021
As with any prospect, the goal is to hear your name called during the draft, it doesn’t matter which team does the calling. But, for Ball, who grew up a Steelers fan, he notes that
“My dad is from Waynesburg, PA about 45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh and I’ve just always been a Steelers fan,” said Ball. “I would be humbled and blessed by anybody that would take me but the Steelers have always been my favorite team for sure.”
Whether the Steelers come calling remains to be seen. For now, Ball continues to train near his home in Virginia waiting for the Draft to get underway on Thursday, April 29.