Former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Christian Ballard has revealed the rationale behind his decision to leave the team in the middle of training camp.
In an interview with USA Today, Ballard revealed he simply “wasn’t living right”—and that football was primarily responsible for his unhappiness. “I wasn’t really having a good time playing football,” Ballard told USA Today on Tuesday. “It wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t a blast for me.”
Shortly after suffering a groin injury in the Vikings’ preseason opener against the Houston Texans, Ballard, 24, told head coach Leslie Frazier that he was leaving the team for “personal reasons,” ProFootball Talk noted. Initially expected to contribute as part of Minnesota’s defensive line rotation, Ballard was instead moved to the team’s “active-left squad” list, without providing an exact explanation as to why he had decided to quit football.
On Tuesday, Ballard explained that his primary motivation for playing football was the money, and that, as a result, his personal life had suffered. “Making that much money—that was fun,” he told USA Today. “But money is still a material thing. You can always make money. You can’t make that time that you lose with your friends and your loved ones. Time is something that you can never get back.”
The decision to quit football sparked a series of changes in Ballard’s life. The 24-year-old moved back to his hometown in Lawrence, Kan., married his girlfriend, Victoria Hallenbeck, and began attending church, USA Today reports.
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The 24-year-old believes that leaving his football career behind was the right decision, but he’s struggled to transition into civilian life. Ballard and Hallenbeck were arrested last Thursday on charges of domestic violence, USA Today reports. The couple will not face any criminal charges, but the 2011 fourth-round draft pick did spend more than a day in jail. Still, he maintains that he is on the right path.
"I can always treat my wife better, treat my son better, be a better brother, be a better son," Ballard said. "But I know right now from being out of the NFL that it's a lot easier to focus on those things because I have time. I'm not wrapped up in this whole other lifestyle.”
While Ballard hasn’t ruled out a potential return to the NFL, the University of Iowa product has turned his mind to other pursuits. He is working toward finishing his undergraduate degree, and plans on applying to graduate school to pursue a career in art or music.