by Jim Gehman
“I never took a redshirt year in college, but it’s almost is like what that was,” Ballard said. “I got used to the speed of the game and the offense and everybody in the organization. And once I was there, it helped me. I just kept building a bond every day and knew I could play with those guys. I just needed the right opportunity.”
That opportunity came the following season when Ballard became a starter and caught 38 passes for 604 yards and four touchdowns. He helped the Giants go from making it into the playoffs as a Wild Card team to Super Bowl XLVI Champions.
Unfortunately, after catching two passes for 10 yards on Super Sunday, Ballard tore the ACL in his left knee in the second half of the game.
Spending the 2012 season on New England’s Injured Reserve, and playing in just eight games the following year for Arizona, Ballard realized that his injury was too much and he announced his retirement.
“It was definitely short and sweet, but I think I’m most proud that I actually started for a full year for the Giants,” Ballard said. “The year we won the Super Bowl, I was the third leading receiver on the team. And if I didn’t get hurt, I’m pretty sure I could have had a pretty long, successful, career.
“It’s hard to argue against it, but I’m proud I got the opportunity. I kind of ran with it and made it my own and helped a great team with great coaches and great players.”
Unlike his first career on the gridiron, Ballard’s second career in real estate is going as planned and as well as he would have hoped.
“I worked construction jobs in college in the summer, and always had an interest in that,” Ballard said. “And so once I got done with football, I thought I’d give the house thing a try and got my license so I could sell my flips. Then I decided I’d help people buy and sell, and dabble in flips and land development. I think it just started from having an interest in it early on.
“I wanted to play ball for 10-plus years like everyone else. I never thought I’d actually get into doing the flips, and a lot of the work, or being a real estate agent. It just kind of all panned out the way it did.”
Certified since 2014, Ballard is with the Howard Hanna Group in Columbus, Ohio.
“No house or no person’s the same and that keeps it interesting. I really enjoy just working with people. I’m not in the office, I’m out and about. And I can kind of control my destiny with it,” Ballard said.
“Playing football here and having a successful Ohio State career, I definitely made a name for myself. It doesn’t always get me deals, but a lot of times it does help me get my foot in the door and at least have meetings. I try to win them over from there.”
What advice would Ballard offer others, whether they’re still playing or have recently left the game?
“I would definitely encourage guys who are still playing to be actively thinking about what they’re going to do if football’s taken away from them tomorrow. It’s a violent game and you can’t control all the aspects. I think if guys thought more about that now, they’d be more prepared,” he said.
“You’re always going to have that kind of downtime after you’re done playing where you’re trying to find yourself and find what you want to do. But as long as you have an idea or a base to make that transition easier, because the whole world’s different once you’re done playing football, you have to hit the workforce like you’re an everyday Joe.”