With New Orleans Saints training camp quickly approaching, former Alabama Crimson Tide Heisman Trophy-winning running back Mark Ingram took the time to put on a football camp for roughly 300 kids over the weekend. The Inaugural Mark Ingram Pro Football Camp was held at Tuscaloosa County High School on Saturday and Sunday.
Ingram looked back at his time as a young kid with big dreams of playing professional football.
“They’re just having fun out there. It’s football in its purest form. They’re playing because they love to play,” said Ingram. “That was me one day. I had hopes and dreams of playing varsity football, big time college football and hopefully one day becoming a pro. That’s them out there right now. You have to let them know that whatever they want to do, if they put their mind to it, they can be successful if they work hard for it.”
Former Alabama offensive line coach Joe Pendry stopped by to check out the camp, and that brought a huge smile to the face of the Crimson Tide’s only Heisman Trophy winner.
“It’s awesome seeing coach,” said Ingram. “That was a pleasant surprise, I didn’t know he was coming out here. Just to see Coach Pendry out here really put on a smile on my face. A guy I learned a lot from in my three years at Alabama. He was hard on me my freshman year and I just learned so much from him as a player, how to be a better football player and person.”
Ingram was questioned on his health for the upcoming season, the Saints bounty issues, and Drew Brees’ new contract. Ingram also talked about his past at the University of Alabama and what the future might hold for the Crimson Tide under Nick Saban’s guidance.
Ingram was asked about the “end of an era” with him and Trent Richardson both in the NFL, and what it’s going to be like for the Crimson Tide now that the two workhorses are carrying the loads for their respective NFL teams.
Ingram said it was just “the next man up” for the Crimson Tide. “It’s Eddie’s turn, it’s whoever’s turn. Whoever’s number is called, it’s their turn to step up to the plate. We have plenty of great backs still: Eddie, Fowler, Yeldon, and Dee Hart. We have a lot of guys who can come in and step up and have successful seasons. Just plug a guy in and let him go.”
Ingram said what many have been thinking. Eddie Lacy may not be on the level of Ingram or Trent Richardson, but the depth Alabama possesses at running back this season will more than make up for that.
Ingram went on to speak about how gratifying it was for him to be one of the players that put Alabama back on the map.
“We won that first one since 1992, and they came back and won one two years later,” said Ingram of the Tide’s 2009 and 2011 National Championship teams. “Talk to guys there now, they are ready to win another one. It’s good to finally see that mindset back. Championships, championships, championships. Nothing less. If you come to Alabama you want to be a champion.”
After winning the National Championship in 2009, Mark Ingram returned to Tuscaloosa for his junior season in 2010, which ended up being a disappointing campaign for the defending National Champions. Ingram hasn’t forgotten about the 2010 season, and he knows just how close the Tide was to a second consecutive National Championship. He also doesn’t expect much of a dropoff for the 2012 version of Alabama football.
“We had some bad breaks,” said Ingram of the 2010 team. “A couple of plays; probably like four plays that could have went either way, and we would have been undefeated and playing for the National Championship again. This team – as long as they buy-in to what Coach Saban is preaching to them, and just focus and gel as a team – will be fine. We have AJ back, good stable of running backs, good receivers back, good line back, and a lot of young guys on the defense that can step in and make stuff happen. I think we’ll be pretty good this year; take another shot at it. Just have to take advantage of opportunities and listen to coach.”
Ingram also took a moment to talk about his relationship with Nick Saban today. Other bloggers and media members can talk about how evil Coach Saban is, but former players like Ingram will not hesitate to go to bat for him and talk about how great a coach and person he is.
“He was my coach for three years, but I could also reach out to him whenever I need some advice or anybody to talk to,” said Ingram. “Coach Saban is just an awesome guy, and I couldn’t have played for a better person. We have a great relationship still, and he still has a great relationship with a lot of his players. Whether you are a first round draft pick or a guy who graduated in five years and you’re gonna go be a doctor. He still has his arms open out to all of his players.”
Ingram will report to training camp on July 24th to get ready for his second season with the Saints, one he hopes he will be healthier in than his rookie year. NFL defenses better hope not, because we all know what kind of running back Mark Ingram is when he is at full strength.
Regardless of how great he was on the field at Alabama, Ingram seems to be just as good of a person off of the field. He’s a guy Alabama fans will continue to cheer for as his career progresses in New Orleans, and he’s a guy all fans of the Crimson Tide should be proud to have representing the university.
You can see the full interview with Ingram here.
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