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A Minnesota Vikings player who quit the team last month, says that he's devoting the time he would have spent on football to being a better husband and parent and has started attending church again after a four year absence.
"I can always treat my wife better, treat my son better, be a better brother, be a better son," Christian Ballard told USA Today Sports. "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."
The 24-year-old former defensive tackle approached Vikings coach Leslie Frazier last month and told him that he needed to leave the team for "personal reasons." Ballard then moved back to his hometown in Lawerence, Kan. and married his girlfriend Victoria Hallenback.
But last Thursday, just weeks after their marriage, police arrested Ballard and his wife for domestic battery. Ballard spent over a day in jail, though the district attorney declined to press charges because neither had physically injured the other and both were considered mutual aggressors.
Ballard did not cite the situation directly but mentioned that he still knows he has many things to improve to be a better husband to Hallenback and a better father to his three-year-old son, Reeve, who is from a previous relationship.
"I'm not saying that I left the NFL (and) now everything is just fine. It's not," he said. "There's still a lot of lot of things I've got to work on – obviously – as being a husband and a father."
Ultimately Ballard's decision came because of a conviction that he was not "living right" and that he did not believe more money, or more football, would fix his situation.
"I wasn't really having a good time playing football. It wasn't fun for me. It wasn't a blast for me," he said.
"Making that much money – that was fun. 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," Ballard added.
Ballard also found that the NFL had made him more self-absorbed and arrogant - turning him into someone he had no desire of being.
"It made me selfish. It made me complacent. I just thought that I was better than everyone," Ballard said. "Don't get me wrong – there are tons of people who play in the NFL and are strong believers in the Lord and they have a great lifestyle. But for me, it wasn't really working out."
Ballard could play again in the NFL — though his next two years would have to be with the Vikings. He also intends to complete his undergraduate art degree so that he can potentially move onto graduate school.
"I'm not sitting here saying I'm done forever. I've just got to reevaluate what I really want to do with my life and go from there," Ballard said.