Shane: Ingram leaves the mark of a champion

Photo from fOTOGLIF

NCAA College Football Alabama runningback Mark Ingram speaks to the media after winning the Heisman Trophy at the Marriott Marquis in New York City on December 12, 2009. UPI/John Angelillo Photo via Newscom

By Shane from Centerpoint
University of Alabama running-back Mark Ingram is the best player to ever wear the crimson jersey. After thinking about the depth of that statement and remembering the heroics of great players like Namath, Stabler, Musso, and Palmer – I’ve become keenly aware that we all watched something very special take place this season.

I interviewed this young 20-year-old (sophomore) tailback after a mid-season contest. As I waited to ask Mark a question, a large crowd of reporters surrounding him began closing in from every direction.

Ingram calmly handled them like he does defenders. He took his time, gave each question contemplative thought, and quietly responded to the onslaught. I was amazed at how laid-back and soft-spoken the guy remained as the inquiries came fast and furious.

Finally, the pack dispersed. I walked up to Mark and asked him one question. He looked me squarely in the eye, thought for a moment and spoke with a low-key voice about how the team’s success was the thing that mattered most.

I already knew what Mr. Ingram could do on the field. After meeting him I was just as impressed with his attitude and demeanor.

After looking deeper into Mark Ingram’s file I’ve come to the realization that he personifies all that the Heisman is meant to be.

First and foremost, Ingram’s academic accomplishments match his performance on the field. He is dedicated in the classroom, taking summer classes since his arrival, and is on track to graduate in only three years. Mark is also a “Dean’s list” student.

He is pursuing a degree in communications, with hopes of one day becoming an ESPN football analyst. Winning the Heisman will definitely help his entry into broadcasting, especially after he stars in the NFL for 7-10 years.

One of the most impressive aspects about Mark Ingram’s winning college football’s highest individual honor is that he accomplished the feat with no P.R. campaign. Ingram earned the award where it should be won – on the gridiron.

In fact, like all of the great Heisman winners before him, Mark displayed relentless consistency all year.

His amazing skills are evident. Ingram has only fumbled once in over 400 touches over two years. He rarely misses a blitz in pass protection, taking on linebackers with ease. He is a precision pass-route runner, who has great hands. He is also a lethal weapon when taking direct snaps in the “wild elephant”.

But the trait that makes Mark Ingram extra-special is how he responds during the “big” games. Playing in the SEC against the nation’s best defenses (nothing like the soft PAC 10 or Big 12), the guy was dynamic. He rolled in successive games against the following: Kentucky (140yds/2-tds), Ole Miss (172yds/1-td), South Carolina (246yds/1-td), Tennessee (99yds), and LSU (144yds).

Mark’s last appearance in the SEC championship game – against the Florida Gators (the nation’s #1 defense) – was billed as perhaps the most important game since the early seventies. The pressure was on. In the end it was one of Ingram’s best performances of the season. With everything on the line he proved his worth and confirmed that he should be the front-runner in the voting for the best college football player in America.

When he was announced as the winner of the 2009 Heisman trophy, the 5’10”, 215 lb., rolling-ball of thunder from Flint, Michigan handled himself with absolute dignity and class. Mark didn’t use his blazing speed or bone-crunching power to overwhelm the crowd. He relied on his greatest asset – his mind – to convey his eloquent acceptance of college football’s greatest individual honor.

Alabama fans can look forward to at least one more year of Mark making explosive plays and taking the “rock to the house”. Then they can thank him for his help bringing home championships as he races toward a top-five pick in the NFL draft.

The fact that Ingram won the Crimson Tide’s first Heisman trophy forever insures that he will enjoy a “legendary” status throughout the Crimson Empire.
—Shane writes a weekly column for the Call News and the Capstone Report.