Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 12/14/11
MADISON, Wis. When Montee Ball arrived in New York City last week to receive the royal treatment as a Heisman Trophy finalist, he admittedly did not know what to expect from the four other superstar candidates joining him on the trip. Ball, Wisconsin's sensational running back, was a guy who came from a humble background in Wentzville, Mo. He was someone who hadn't even been named the Badgers' starting tailback when fall camp began in early August. The other finalists, meanwhile Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu were guys who had their names splashed across national headlines for months or even years.For those reasons, Ball couldn't help but wonder what type of people they actually were in private. He was surprised to find out for himself."All of them are exactly like the players at Wisconsin," Ball said. "That threw me. They were all really easy to talk to and just great guys. That's why I bonded real well with them."In particular, Ball became fast friends with Griffin, the Heisman winner, during their brief three-day stay together in New York. When Ball, who was seated next to Griffin at the trophy ceremony, heard Griffin's name called as the winner, he gave him a pat on the back and a big hug."I got along with him the most," Ball said. "I guess I had thought in my mind that he would be pretty stuck up. But he wasn't. He was extremely down to earth. I saw a lot of similarities in him that's in me."He deserved it. Honestly, he deserved it. I knew going in I was the underdog, so I was just making sure I was going to soak up the experience and have a great time. I wanted to be the first to congratulate them."Ball discovered he was a Heisman finalist on Monday, Dec. 5 and spent the next week traveling across the country. He flew to Orlando, Fla., that Wednesday to attend the Home Depot College Football Awards as a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. He then flew to New York City on Friday morning for a three-day trip that culminated with the Heisman Trophy presentation on Saturday night.Ball said one of his favorite moments in New York was being taken to Rockefeller Center to see the world-famous Christmas tree. He added that he and the other finalists were treated like true celebrities during their brief stay in town."It sunk in while I was there," Ball said. "The security guards were walking around us, shutting down one elevator just for us. People trying to jump in the huddle for autographs. At that time it hit me this is a pretty big deal, the Heisman."Ball finished fourth in the Heisman voting behind Griffin, Luck and Richardson.Ball, who has scored 38 touchdowns in 13 games one shy of the Football Bowl Subdivision record wasn't even considered a Heisman Trophy contender until the middle of November."The part that was so unique is Montee really did gain momentum," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said. "In the beginning of the year, first press conference, I couldn't tell you who was going to start the first game. But Montee did it on the field and continued to do it for the entire season and that was what was pretty impressive. "Obviously, I would have loved to see Montee win it, but that RG III kid is an incredible human being. Him and Montee kind of gravitated to each other over those three days that they were together. It's pretty cool to see a kid like that have success."Despite not winning the Heisman, Ball said he had no regrets about the trip. He also left town with a few more friends to add to his phone list. "It was exactly how it looks on TV and in the movies and stuff like that," Ball said of New York City. "It was a lot of fun. It was exactly what I thought it would be. I soaked it all in. It was a huge experience and something I'll cherish for the rest of my life."Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter
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