INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard swears his dream was never to be an NFL general manager.
After overcoming severe asthma, and ignoring doctors' orders to not play the game of football, Ballard was a receiver at the University of Wisconsin, and thought coaching life was his calling when injuries ended his playing career.
Ballard’s days as a college receiver didn’t necessarily translate to coaching defensive backs for five seasons at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
When the turn of the century arrived, Ballard was ready for something new.
Life as an NFL scout was about to begin.
“There’s only 32 teams. People that jump jobs and don’t show any loyalty to the people that they are with, that just kinds of tell you who they are. I never worried about the next step. All I ever worried about was the moment I was in and doing the best job I can do at that moment.”
From 11 seasons as an area scout with the Chicago Bears, Ballard elevated to the pro personnel world with Chicago in 2012.
The impression Ballard made on the road during his 11 years as an area scout intrigued new Kansas City Chiefs GM John Dorsey in 2013.
Dorsey, who was taking over in KC after more than a dozen seasons with the Green Bay Packers, hired Ballard as his director of player personnel.
One final promotion for Ballard came in 2015 (to director of football operations), before getting the call from Jim Irsay.
Ballard says when he left Chicago in 2012, a move he never thought he would make, that’s when the thought crept into his head about the eventual possibility of being a GM.
Seeing former divisional foe Green Bay up close during his time in Chicago, Ballard wanted to know more.
“When I went to Kansas City, that really opened my eyes,” the new Colts GM says. “John and Andy (Reid) really empowering me to do my job at a higher level, that was the turning point to me to know that I had a chance to be a GM.
“I was always intrigued by the way Green Bay did things, the way they scouted, the way they evaluated players. It was invaluable in four years just to learn their process of how to build a team, and how to acquire players.”
Ballard now brings that to Indianapolis as he moves to the highest step on the personnel ladder.
Although Ballard is now at the top, his experience at various steps along the way he believes will be valuable in succeeding as a first-time general manager.
“I’ve seen it at every level,” Ballard says. “I’ve seen it from an area scout, which are critical for an organization because they are the eyes and ears. I’ve seen it from a pro director perspective, which is critical, because when you first go into the office, (you’re) learning how to communicate with everybody. I’ve seen it from a director of player personnel perspective in that you’ve got to get both college and pro (departments) in how they fit together. Then from football ops in how you are dealing with everybody in the building.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around really good teachers who have helped me along the way. I’ll do the same thing. I’ll pay it back.”
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