The big tight end caught 34 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns during his career at Ohio State. In his one full season with the New York Giants, Ballard bettered these numbers with 38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns. It’s hard to imagine that anyone saw this little used college tight end turning in starting caliber numbers. This includes Jerry Reese, considering how many times Ballard was waived and re-signed. To his credit, he was the only GM that took a chance on signing him after the draft, and any other team could have claimed Ballard the handful of times the Giants waived him.
Ballard was the team’s starting tight end for most of the 2011 season, and he had more receiving yards than Kevin Boss had in any of his seasons with the Giants. That’s not to say that Ballard is the better player; Boss is superior as a receiver and as a blocker at this point in their careers, and never had the benefit of playing in an offense as pass-oriented as this year’s Giants. Still, Ballard was a huge part of the Giants’ passing offense, when healthy, showing surprisingly soft hands and an ability to find soft spots in the defense.
One thing that Ballard and Boss have in common are injury issues. After series injuries to both knees, Ballard will struggle to ever top this season. Still, his heroics in the regular season, especially during their first meeting with the Patriots, will long be remembered.