Kalen Ballage knows what it means to work hard and stay humble. The true freshman running back from Falcon, Colorado has been a frontrunner during practices and has gained attention from Todd Graham and the rest of the coaching staff.
Ballage, 6’3 and nearing 220 pounds, is a top player amongst the Sun Devil football program and understands that all the positive attention doesn’t mean that he can start slacking off. As a product of a highly athletic family, Ballage explains to College Times the secret of his success, pre-game rituals and what it’s like to live in the dorms while being an ASU student-athlete.
College Times: What’s the biggest difference between high school and college-level football so far?
Ballage: The critical thinking, being able to think faster than your opponent.
What do you think you’re going to improve upon the most on here at ASU?
In high school I was just able to use my physical talents to get me to where I needed to be, but now I use a combination of things—my body and mind—to make plays.
How would you describe Todd Graham’s coaching style?
He’s hard on you. If you can’t take the things they throw at you, then this isn’t the place for you. They really push you and have high expectations for everybody. Different plays, different drills, how disciplined you are, everything in every aspect. They’re really hard.
Do you like living the dorm life?
It’s a confined space with you and your roommate, so that kind of sucks, but I room with my one of my teammates, which gives us another chance to get closer.
Is going to the NFL your main goal after graduation?
I would like to do both [business and NFL]. Getting my degree is something that is very important to me, but I’ve always wanted to play football, ever since I was a little kid.
What is your pre-game routine?
I’m very superstitious, so if I don’t put my uniform on the exact same way, every time before every game, it messes with my head. It’s always left sock, right sock and then my shirt. Then my left tape, then right tape. I’d be here for a while if I told you the whole thing.
Todd Graham called you “the most impressive freshman running back we’ve ever had.” How does that make you feel?
I really appreciate it. That doesn’t mean that I can cool it down and not work as hard. I just want to work harder now with him saying that. I feel like I can heighten my talents to more than what they are right now.
Your father played college football. What was the best piece of advice he gave you?
I’ve had uncles that played in college and then played in the NFL, too. They all taught me to be humble. Stay humble and know that your gifts and talents can be taken away in a snap of your fingers. You need to work as hard as you can because you will never know when you’ll be done playing.