Something pretty amazing is close to happening that Vermont and New Hampshire residents alike should be awful proud of. His name is David Ball. Never heard of him?
That’s ok, most of the nation hasn’t. But this 6-foot-2-inch receiver for the University of New Hampshire is one touchdown reception away from breaking Jerry Rice’s all time receiving touchdown record for Division 1 AA college football.
Yes, the Jerry Rice that played in the NFL for 20 years, making 13 Pro Bowls. The same Jerry Rice that won three Super Bowl rings. The man that holds the NFL all time touchdown and receiving yards records, and is arguably the best receiver to ever play the game.
And now, 22 years after Rice graduated from Mississippi Valley State with 50 touchdowns, Ball, from Orange, Vt., which has just 965 total residents, is one touchdown away from breaking Rice’s record.
Four years ago the 22-year-old Ball was recruited by UNH as a high jumper, and was a walk-on to the UNH football team. His 37-inch vertical jump has helped him on the gridiron just as much as with the track team – which he still does at a varsity level as well – jumping over receiver’s grasps to bring down pass after pass. Fifty touchdowns later, and he is attracting NFL scouts to little Cowell Stadium in Durham, New Hampshire, which seats only 6,500.
Ball slid under the radar of college recruiting programs as most Vt. high school football players do. At Spaulding High School, he played division II football, along with basketball and track. The school was a consistent loser on the football field.
Now, thanks in large part to Ball, UNH is ranked first in the Atlantic 10 conference. On Sept. 23, UNH (3-0) rolled over Dartmouth 56-14, in a game that Ball caught three touchdowns in the first half, the last one tying Rice’s record. Ball may have broken the record that same game if it had not been a blowout that led his coach to have him sit out the majority of the second half.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, Ball will break Rice’s record, whether it comes this weekend at Delaware, or the next against Richmond.
I’m not going to even begin drawing conclusions about where he is in comparison to Rice, but I do think that he is someone that all football fans should, and soon will, know about.
After the season is over, Ball will get drafted, although probably not in the first two rounds because of where he goes to school. But as Rice showed us 22 years ago, anything can happen once a player makes it to the NFL.
What Ball has done is given kids in Vermont and other states with overlooked sports programs, a hope of what they can become.