2023 (Redshirt)
Cole Ballard redshirted in his first season at Nebraska.

Before Nebraska (Elkhorn South High School)
Ballard joined the Nebraska football program as a walk-on out of Elkhorn South High School. Ballard was named  to the Omaha World-Herald All-Nebraska first team and to the Lincoln Journal Star Super-State first team as a senior. He was also the honorary captain of the World-Herald's Class A all-state team.

Ballard helped Elkhorn South to a 10-1 record and a trip to the Class A quarterfinals as a senior. On offense, he rushed for 1,491 yards while adding 275 receiving yards. Ballard scored 38 total touchdowns - including tying the state record with seven touchdowns in a game - and was Class A's leading scorer in 2022. On defense, he had 23 tackles and one interception for Coach Guy Rosenberg’s team.

Ballard was a second-team all-state selection as a junior when Elkhorn South posted an 8-2 record and reached the Class A quarterfinals. He had 1,208 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns and added 18 tackles on defense. Ballard was an honorable-mention all-state pick as a sophomore after rushing for 830 yards and 16 touchdowns while helping Elkhorn South to a state runner-up finish. Ballard was also a member of the basketball and track teams at Elkhorn South.

Cole's father, Chris, was a wide receiver at the Air Force Academy and Kansas. Cole's grandfather played college basketball and his great-grandfather, Frederick Hamilton, played football at Gettysburg College and was a Maxwell Award finalist in 1939.