It was Ballard, you'll recall, who had a David Tyree-like catch in Week 9 against the Patriots to set up his eventual game-winning touchdown at Gillette Stadium. However, it's Gronkowski getting all the attention this Super Bowl week. His injured left ankle, plus the prolific one-two punch of Gronk and Aaron Hernandez, is a subject the media just can't stop telling.
Ballard says he's not jealous of the attention they're getting.
"Not really. Those guys are having tremendous years. They deserve everything they've been getting. The fun part is to watch them and see tight ends such a huge part of the offense," he said Thursday.
"Our offense has asked me to do what [Gronk]'s been doing. He's making huge plays week in and week out. He's a great tight end. I'm happy for him to have the year he's having. You never want to see tight ends not be successful. You like to see your position do well."
It's not just the shared position, though, take connects Ballard and Gronkowski. The 24-year-old Ballard actually hosted Gronkowski when the latter made a recruiting trip to Ohio State several years ago.
"It's cool to see him progress and go to college and do what he did and go to the NFL and be a dominant, one of the most dominant tight ends this year. I showed him around when he came to visit Ohio State. I sat down and talked to him for about a half-hour, 45 minutes. He just seemed like a good kid, likes playing football, has a good time doing it.
"The first time I saw him since then was the preseason game we played this year. You can't really forget the name Gronkowski. I connected the dots and was like, 'Oh, I talked to him when he was still in high school.'"
Ballard's respect for Gronk seemed genuine, as did his demure response to continued questions about his Week-9 heroics.
"It was good for me then, but I'm just trying to move past that. That was a great game and huge victory for the Giants this year. But we're trying to have a bigger victory against them right now."