Playing under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as a rookie in 2012, Vick Ballard had the most productive season by a Colts' running back since Joseph Addai rushed for 828 yards in 2009, as Ballard totaled 814 yards on the ground on his way to an impressive rookie season. He entered the 2013 season as the unquestioned starting running back, but in practice after the first game, Ballard went down with a non-contact injury: a torn ACL. He then entered the 2014 season competing for a significant role (whether as a starter or a key backup), but just a few practices in to training camp, Ballard went down with a non-contact injury: a torn Achilles.
In those two years, the Colts have struggled running the football, thanks in large part to the disastrous Trent Richardson trade (which was prompted, coincidentally, by Ballard's torn ACL). As a result, the Colts set out this offseason to improve their running game, which they did by signing veteran Frank Gore in free agency, re-signing Boom Herron, and drafting Josh Robinson. That leaves the question of where exactly Ballard fits into the picture at running back, considering that he's coming off of back-to-back season-ending injuries.
"Sometimes, it feels like a lot of people just forgot about me," Ballard told the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer in an emotional interview that is well worth your time to read. There were, as Ballard told Keefer, a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of tears on his pillow. What does a running back do without football? With getting on the field just once in two years? He realizes that he might not get many more chances at a comeback. "I was just telling my mom the other day," Ballard said, "this could be it for me."
He's a young running back entering his fourth season in the league, but he's coming off of a torn ACL and a torn Achilles. There are questions, and rightfully so, about how he will be able to come back. It's clear that the Colts aren't counting on him to produce - they've got Frank Gore and Boom Herron to do that, and Josh Robinson to develop. But if Vick Ballard comes back healthy, I think he'd win a spot on the roster. Then it'd be about winning playing time. And it'll be an uphill battle for him, but if he can stay healthy and get on the field, it's not a stretch to think that he could be a contributor to this Colts team, one that figures to be very good in 2015.
"That's what is so frustrating," Ballard told Keefer, reflecting back to his successful rookie season in 2012. "After that year, I was thinking, 'We got some ballers in this draft class. We're going to be the draft class that brings a Super Bowl back to Indy. We're going to grow up together.'"
In the end, that 2012 draft class - led by Andrew Luck - very likely will be the draft class that brings another Super Bowl trophy to Indianapolis. Hopefully, Vick Ballard will be part of it - because it'd be good for the team, yes, but also because after reading Keefer's profile on him, it's hard not to be rooting for him.