INDIANAPOLIS – Kalen Ballage, the pride of Falcon, Colorado, is most often compared to big backs who can catch like David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell and Todd Gurley.
In another way, perhaps Ballage can become the next C.J. Anderson.
Like Anderson, Ballage is a running back has what it takes to become better as a pro than he was in college.
Anderson was a backup at Cal who rushed for 345 yards and 790 yards in his two seasons there.
Undrafted by the Broncos in 2013, Anderson became a Pro Bowler in 2014, the rushing star in Super Bowl 50 to cap the 2015 season and a 1,000-yard rusher in 2017.
Ballage is nearly 6-foot-2 and weighed in at 228 pounds here at the NFL Combine and while he scored eight touchdowns for Arizona State in a 68-55 win against Texas Tech as a junior, he never rushed for as many as 670 yards in his four seasons.
Was he disappointed by his modest production?
“Nah, I’m not really worried about it,’’ Ballage said Thursday during his Combine interview. “I’m a competitor. Obviously, I set goals. I would love to be a 1,000-yard back every year, 20 touchdowns. All those accolades, but I think I have the opportunity to do that at this next level.’’
At Arizona State, Ballage was the 1B running back to Demario Richard the past three years, and played sparingly behind D.J. Foster and company as a freshman.
Despite Ballage’s size, he was used more like a change-of-pace back than he a bell cow at Arizona State.
“I’m a competitor. If I could carry the ball 80 times a game I would,’’ Ballage said. “That’s just my mentality. At the end of the day, the coaches didn’t feel like that was best. There’s another great running back here from Arizona State (Demario Richard). We both ended up here.’’
Born in Denver, Ballage moved to Falcon, an unincorporated town outside of Colorado Springs, when he was “8 or 9.’’
His father, Reggie, has been an underground locator for more than 20 years and his mom, LaVonda, is a real estate agent.
Falcon doubled in population in the 1990s, but Ballage still described his town as: “Small. Small and … small.’’
Later he said: “Falcon’s a little bit different now even since I was there. It’s grown. It’s almost connected to Colorado Springs now. There’s no in between.’’
When it came to football, there was no middle ground in the Ballage family. It was always huge. Kalen’s uncle Pat Ballage was a four-year safety for Notre Dame during the Gerry Faust years and played a couple years in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts.
Another uncle, Norm Barnett, was a tight end for the University of Colorado in the early-1990s. Another uncle, Howard Ballage, was a running back/receiver/returner for the CU Buffaloes in the late-1970s and played in the Canadian Football League and Denver Gold in the United States Football League.
“It was a good thing for me growing up, seeing them older than me and already doing what I wanted to do,’’ Kalen said. “I felt that from a young age.’’
The Broncos got a good look at Kalen Ballage during Senior Bowl week in late January as Vance Joseph’s staff coached his North squad.
Ballage rushed for 57 yards on just ten carries in the game. The experience helped.
“I think continuing to put my name on the map,’’ Ballage said. “A lot of scouts had seen me play on film but maybe not play in person. I think it was good for me to play in front of a lot of NFL scouts and have them visualize what I’m able to do.’’
Scouts are impressed by his mix of size and versatility. As for those lack of awe-inspiring stats, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“I only had like  carries,’’ Ballage said of his four-year career at Arizona State. “A lot of these guys, they get that in one season, almost. So, I think my body is fresh and I got a lot of tread on my tires.’’