Rookie linebacker Neiron Ball has had quite the journey leading up to fulfilling his NFL dream with the Oakland Raiders.
Through extreme injury and unfathomable personal loss, the former Florida Gator has managed to remain focused on football and now has the opportunity to suit up for an NFL team.
Ball appeared on the Jim Rome Show Wednesday and spoke about the obstacles he's overcome to get to the NFL, as well as his excitement to put on the Silver and Black.
It's Been a Busy Few Months
Since Ball was selected by the Raiders in the fifth round (No. 161 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft he has been busy preparing for the start of 2015. While the offseason has provided time to learn and become acclimated with NFL life, Ball is now ready to put on the pads.
"It's been great. Just to know about the history of the program that I'm in with the Raiders is great. I know I have a lot of hard work to put in and I'm just ready. I'm ready for the season to start."
Has Overcome Unimaginable Obstacles
During his first year of college, Ball was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation [AVM], and as a result had to undergo brain surgery when he was 18.
"I was really scared. Like I said, I can't even really describe the pain. Going through that, you would think that you're not going to make it through something like that. I wish I could explain it better, but it was almost like somebody had my brain in their hands and they were squeezing it as hard as they can. I really didn't know. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it through or not."
More Surgery Was in His Future
Following his recovery from brain surgery, Ball suffered a knee injury that forced him to have yet another surgery. However, through it all he remained grounded and confident he would return to normal.
"I felt like the knee surgery was very small compared to what I had been through. Of course I had to get over it. I knew I had a long ways to go from the knee surgery, but I felt like it was small compared to brain surgery."
Overcame Losses at Home as Well
Neiron's hardship was not limited to the football field.
Growing up in Jackson, Ga., he lost both his parents before he was 10 years old, but was able to continue on with the support of his grandmother and the rest of his family.
"It was definitely terrible. It was very terrible. It was a terrible situation, but it was something that I couldn't control, and my grandmother, she preached that to me and also was there for me. Not only my grandmother, but the rest of my family. They helped me through that."
**Draft Day Was One He'll Never Forget
The Raiders selected 10 players in the 2015 NFL Draft.
After the countless hurdles that have been put in his way, hearing his name called during the 2015 NFL Draft was a special moment for Ball.
"It was great. It was definitely a blessing. It was excitement. It was a whole bunch of feelings that went through my body. I'm just so thankful for it."
The Story is Just Beginning
Ball's story of perseverance serves as an example to others, and now that he's in the NFL he wants his story to motivate others to work hard and do the same.
"It means a lot. It only makes me want to go harder. I know that people are looking up to me. It makes me to want to do it the right way because I want to show them that they can do it too as long as they do the right things in life."
Ready to Meet Raider Nation
The Silver and Black open the preseason August 14 against the St. Louis Rams, and the rookie can't wait to get his first experience with Raider Nation.
"I have an idea because I hear that it gets really crazy. I'm just ready to experience it firsthand, but I hear that it's really crazy and I can't wait to experience it."