Striving for Excellence

Jay Ballard  |  Sophomore
Boys Town Male Athlete of the Year

Sophomore Jay Ballard, Boys Town’s 2020 Male Athlete of the Year, joined the wrestling and track teams when he came to Boys Town two years ago. But football is his sport. He’s been playing the game since he was in kindergarten. “The Boys Town teams motivate me and want me to try to be better,” he said. “They tell me I’m going to be an All-Star one day.” He’s also close with his teammates. “They are like my brothers.”

Ballard has had to overcome many obstacles to become a successful athlete. “In the streets of Baltimore, I had to walk to practice. There were a lot of drug dealers and crime down there. It was tempting to get involved and become a part of that life, but I knew it wasn’t for me.” Ballard also lost his brother, Robert, in a drowning accident. Remembering his brother keeps him motivated. “He wanted to be an NFL star like me. Every day I wake up, I think about him.”

Boys Town head track coach Jesse Benda said that “from day one, Jay has always shown leadership on and off the field.” Ballard takes his captain position on the football team seriously and tells his teammates, “Don’t do what the others do. Be your own person because they’re going to look up to you.”

Boys Town head football coach Christopher Nizzi sees Ballard as a role model. “Jay’s strength as a leader is his work ethic and his patience. He is outstanding at accepting coaching and implementing the feedback immediately to help him perform better. His dedication demonstrated daily with his great desire to achieve make him the athlete of the year.”

Ballard pushes himself to excel, going above and beyond to work on his skills outside of practice. “My dad always told me, ‘You shouldn’t be mediocre,’ so I’ve been striving to be the best.” In 2019, Ballard was named All Conference in football and finished sixth in his weight class at the state wrestling tournament. COVID-19 derailed track season this year, but Ballard is keeping his focus. “What’s important to me is my family, my future. I hope to go to the next level and play football for four years.”

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