Courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
By Dave Heller
I covered Travis Prentice for a couple of seasons. Never did I think that I'd be talking with him 15 years later.
But here we are, as Prentice's name has been entwined with Wisconsin's Montee Ball's.
Prentice set the NCAA record for touchdowns playing for Miami (Ohio) from 1996-99. He's held onto that mark ever since, but is resigned to the fact it is about to come to an end as Ball sits just one TD away from tying Prentice and two from breaking the record.
Prentice, after a brief NFL career, now works in a rehab department at a hospital in his native Louisville while also working on his master's in occupational therapy. He took a few minutes to discuss Ball and the touchdown record -- admitting he never thought the record would fall, giving some advice to Ball and more in this Q&A.
Q. Montee Ball is about to break your touchdown record. Have you thought about it, has it been going through your mind the last few weeks?
A. A lot of people who know me they've been bringing it up. People who know I have the record have been asking, "Do you think he's going to break your record? Do you think he's going to break your record?"
At first I was like, uh, he'll get close. But probably like two weeks ago I was like he'll definitely break it. He's scoring way too many touchdowns, so he'll definitely break it.
It was good while it lasted, but records were made to be broken. I set a certain standard, and he'll set another standard. It's all good.
Q. Did you think it would last this long or did you think it would go a lot longer?
A. Actually I thought it would go a lot longer because of the way college football has changed. A lot of the top teams, they carry two running backs so you really don't have a chance to have one feature back who carries the load. Some of the backs who have been so good, they've jumped right to the NFL. But he stayed around. I didn't think it would get broken, to tell you the truth, because the way college football is now.
Q. You kind of alluded to it -- not many guys stay around for four years. Not that Ball was the starter all four years, but he compiled a lot of touchdowns early on anyway. Most guys probably would have gone pro after last season and wouldn't have had a chance to break it.
A. Exactly. And that's another reason. The game and some of the circumstances have changed when it comes to records.
Q. You said you never thought it would be broken, so is this kind of bittersweet for you?
A. It is bittersweet. A couple of guys from school called me and said, "You think he's going to get your record?" Yeah, he probably will, but he's a good running back and he earned it. My hat's off to him and his offensive line -- hopefully he's thanking those guys, too.
Q. A good running back always thanks his offensive line, right?
A. The good ones do, the good ones do.
Q. Have you reached out to Ball at all or plan to?
A. I keep a low profile. I just watch. I'm a big college football fan. I don't have a favorite team, but of course I keep up with Miami of Ohio and the University of Louisville, since that's where I'm from. But I just like college football and he's breaking the record and doing it the old-fashioned way -- getting into the end zone, hard yards. He's a good running back. I've watched him over the past two years. Last year he really caught my eye. To tell you the truth, they're never truly without a good running back. When has Wisconsin being without a good running back? That's just what they do. They might not have the best quarterback or receivers, but they're going to have a good running back and offensive line. That's just Wisconsin.
Q. Are you going to watch Saturday's game?
A. Yup, yup, most definitely. I'm going to watch it. See him go for the record and now it's you.
Q. They showed the clip of you breaking the record during the Wisconsin-Indiana game. Do you remember that or what was going through your mind at that moment?
A. Yeah, it was my last game with a touchdown against Akron up the right side of the field. I didn't even know I broke the record when I got to the sideline. I just knew I won the game with the touchdown and this just happened to be the icing on the cake, that I broke the record. Then I was watching the game last week -- the Indiana game -- and I was like, you have to be kidding me. Because (Indiana head coach) Kevin Wilson was my offensive line coach. And I was like, you let him break my record, man? This is part of your record, too. You should have blitzed him or something (laughs). Oh well.
Q. Any advice for Ball, what he's going to go through.
A. No, just keep doing what you're doing. He's done the small things, obviously. Even when he wasn't starting he was scoring touchdowns. So just keep doing the small things and basically he's just benefitting from doing all the small things. People will see the records that he's done, but if you dissect his career, he's done a lot. Everybody else will think, you're great, you did all this. But in all honesty, I've been doing this the whole time, you guys are just figuring it out.
It's all good. Records are made to be broken. I broke somebody's record, he's breaking mine and sooner or later somebody will break his record. Maybe in another 10-15 years somebody will break his record.