DOWN YOU GO – Brandon Ball, number 64, takes down the quarterback in a game last fall.
SPRINGVILLE — A lot of 10-year-old boys dream about playing college football.
“When you’re 10 years old, everyone wants to play for Florida State or the Florida Gators,” Springville senior Brandon Ball said.
For Ball, it’s playing for the Hobart Statesmen that will make his dream a reality. Ball, an offensive and defensive lineman for Springville the past four years, has decided to continue his athletic and academic careers at Hobart College
“It’s exciting to get it all over with,” Ball said. “Finally, I know where I am going; I know where I’m going to fit in next year. I really picked Hobart for the education over football, but it’s going to be nice to have a combination of both.”
As a two-year, two-way starter, Ball ranked up the awards being named a first team All-League as a junior and a senior. This past fall he was named to the All-Metro Group First Team, Upstate New York Football Weekly Third Team and was named an All-Western New York Honorable Mention. He was also the receipient of Springville’s Pop Warner Trophy.
“It’s excited for many reasons,” Springville’s newly appointed head coach Rob Valenti said. “Being able to see the progress and the maturation of a student athlete over a course of four years is really, really special. To see where Brandon started and to see the work ethic, the dedication and getting it done in the classroom, getting it done on the football field, as well as in the community is really nice.”
Ball mulled over similar opportunities at Alfred University and Ithaca College and was given the offers to walk-on to the football team at Division-II schools Gannon University and Edinboro University.
He was even listed as a preferred walk-on at the University at Buffalo, a D-1 program.
“That was pretty amazing,” Ball said of having a preferred walk-on status at UB. “It’s the closest thing we have to big-time college football around here.”
ONE OF THE GREATS – Coach Rob Valenti, left, is pictured with Brandon Ball when he received the Pop Warner trophy in November.
Ball put together a resume by his playing on the field and also had schools intrigued by his age. At just 15-years old Ball was a key contributor on a Springville team that played at Ralph Wilson Stadium and he played his senior season at 16. According to Valenti, his age provides a higher ceiling than typical seniors coming out of high school.
“He’s one of the youngest players we’ve ever had as a senior,” Valenti said. “I know that college coaches looked at his age and see that as a reason to why an athlete has a higher ceiling. Brandon is going to come into his own. He’s going to come into his own mentally; he’s going to come into his own physically.”
Brandon has matured physically since stepping into Springville-GI High School as a freshman. As a freshman, he stood 5 feet and 10 inches tall and weighed just 160 pounds.
As a senior, he’s 6-foot-2, 240 pounds.
Aside from natural growth, an important aspect to Ball’s getting bigger was the work he put in during the offseason. In four years of lifting, Ball broke the school record in both the squat (515 pounds) and power clean (245 pounds). His four core lift total of 1510 pounds (squat, power clean, bench press and dead lift) ranks him second in school history.
“That’s been extremely important,” Ball said. “Just over the past year, I’ve added 100 pounds to a couple of my lifts and all of my football measurables have increased. I’m running a 4.9 40 [yard dash], I’m over a 20 inch vertical. The hard work has definitely paid off. “
“Brandon may be the most intense, yet quiet players we’ve had,” Valenti said. “He has that tick. That drive, that intrinsic motivation. It’s deep inside of him. He’s not a ‘Yeah-Yeah’ captain. He’s not your ‘rah-rah’ guy, he’s a leader by example. He’s just got that strong fire that burns inside of him, he’s a competitor.”
As a junior, Ball recorded 33 tackles and nine sacks. In his senior campaign, Ball nearly doubled his tackles with 64 and had seven sacks to finish with 16 for his two-year career on varsity. Ball will be joining one of the most successful D.III programs in the country at Hobart. In 18 seasons as the head coach at Hobart, Mike Craig has a 112-52 record.
The Statesmen finished last season with a 10-1 record, ranked No. 7 in the country. Valenti played football at Hobart in 2001 under Craig.
“Coach Craig is someone that is extremely passionate about the game of football,” Valenti said. “He’s a high-motor coach and he’s extremely organized. He’s been at Hobart for awhile and he’s had some really, really great success. He’s had numerous national ranked teams and has gone deep into the playoffs a bunch of times with a couple divisional titles.”
Ball will studying physical therapy but will be looking to get his athletic training degree at Hobart and transfer to another school from there.
“It’s amazing,” Ball said. “Since I took a visit there, I’ve looked into their football program a lot. I looked at their record over the last few years; they have strong tradition of winning. It’s an honor to play at somewhere like that.