Historic Heisman: Ingram first to win trophy for the Tide
- Cecil Hurt
December 13, 2009


  Mark Ingram becomes Alabama's 1st Heisman Trophy winner
Mark Ingram became the first Alabama football player in history to win the Heisman Trophy.
- AP Photo/Tuscaloosa News Photos
NEW YORK - It was only fitting that Mark Ingram won the 2009 Heisman Trophy in the closest race ever.

Now, it has carried him into the history books.

“I’m a little overwhelmed right now,” said Ingram, who broke into tears on the podium at New York’s Nokia Theater. He said later, at a post-award news conference, that it was the sight of his mother, Shonda Ingram, crying in the audience that “just got to me.”

“My family has been through a lot, and I wanted to do this for them and for my teammates,” Ingram said.

Ingram said he talked to his father two days ago, but will not get to visit him while in New York and show him the famous trophy he won on Saturday night.

“I know he is proud of me, and I owe him a lot,” Ingram said. “He was tough on me growing up. When we played basketball, he would always block my shot. He wouldn’t let me win. When we had a race, he would run faster. He wouldn’t let me win. But it made me the competitor I am today.

“I love him to death. He’s real proud of me.”

The genuine emotion of Ingram’s acceptance speech was obvious on national television.

“At first, I was really calm, kind of relaxed,” he said. “But then my heart started beating faster, I saw my mom crying and I sort of broke down, too.

“When I was shaking hands with the other winners, I was kind of in a daze. It was a crazy feeling.”

Ingram finished with 227 first-place votes and 1,304 total votes, beating out Stanford running back Toby Gerhart in the tight voting. Gerhart had just five fewer first-place votes (222) and finished ahead of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and the 2007 winner, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Tebow said he tried to help Ingram deal with the emotions that were clearly weighing on him going into the ceremony.

“I’m a realist,” Tebow said. “I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to win. But I saw that Mark was really nervous and I asked him if he wanted to pray and he did. So we found a private room and we prayed, just the two of us. We prayed for him to find peace, not for someone to win the trophy.”

Gerhart, the Stanford senior tailback who nearly became one of the dark-horse surprises in Heisman history, said there were “no hard feelings” towards Ingram despite the narrowness of the victory.

“The first time I got to see (Mark) play was when I watched him on TV in the SEC (Championship) game,” Gerhard said. “I love the way he plays. I love his passion. He’s a physical guy. I’m a physical guy. He breaks a lot of tackles and he carried his team on his back.”

Ingram ran for a school-record 1,542 yards this season, scoring 15 rushing touchdowns this season for the No. 1 Crimson Tide. He also caught 30 passes for 322 yards and three more scores.

But UA head coach Nick Saban, who was on hand along with UA assistant coaches Jim McElwain and Burton Burns, said Ingram’s unselfishness was, ironically, a key to his Heisman win.

“We played three backs a lot of the time, not just Mark but Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch as well,” Saban said.

“Coach Saban had everything to do with this Heisman win,” Ingram said. “From the time he was recruiting me, I knew he was a special guy. He demands perfection.”

Ingram said his focus will quickly shift away from his win and back to Alabama’s upcoming BCS title date with Texas on Jan. 7, 2010.

“I’m going to dedicate all my energy to that now,” Ingram said.



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