Mark Ingram, Immortalized: Alabama's Star RB Becomes The 75th Heisman Winner

Today, we got a glimpse of our winter future: a full Saturday without major college football. Tonight, though, the nation takes a look back at the fall, and one man walks away with the most prestigious award in college football. Follow along here!

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Mark Ingram's Background: Not Exactly A Fairy Tale

Perhaps I’m late to the party on this one, but for those who weren’t aware, the story of Mark Ingram isn’t your typical All-American narrative. He grew up as the son of Mark Ingram, Sr., a former NFL first-round pick, and an professional wide receiver for more than 12 years.

But after leaving the NFL, Ingram's father fell on hard times, and has been prosecuted in a number of small crimes, such as counterfeiting, credit card theft, and purse snatching. Not exactly a glamorous tradition for Ingram to follow in. But tonight, at least, the Ingram family name was dignified and celebrated, as Mark, Jr. sets about making a name for himself, independent of his father’s weaknesses. It’s a sad story, but it makes tonight’s victory that much happier.

Here, Ingram’s father talks about his son, the superstar:


Fighting Off Tears, Mark Ingram Accepts The University Of Alabama's First Heisman Trophy

Just like that, Mark Ingram's name will be known to college football fans for decades to come. Tonight he was named this year's winner of the Heisman Trophy, the first player from Alabama to win the prestigious trophy. During his acceptance speech, Ingram made sure to share the credit: "I'd like to thank my teammates. It truly is a team award, and they've had a tremendous amount to do with my success." And before he got there, Ingram was overcome by emotions, with tears streaming down his face as he embraced the moment:


There were several moments, in fact, where it looked like Ingram might break down in tears. And even though Ndamukong Suh was clearly the most dominant player in college football this year--and someone that's more likely to cry blood, like a comic book villain, than shed an actual tear--Ingram's tears reminded you just how momentous this award can be for young college football players, and his induction into the fraternity of Heisman winners was heartwarming just the same.

It was the closest Heisman race of all time--just 28 points separated Ingram from Stanford's Toby Gerhart, who finished as the runner-up--as Colt McCoy and Suh garnered a significant chunk of the votes despite finishing 3rd and 4th, respectively. But however close, Ingram finished on top, and as a result, he'll be remembered for years to come.


Tim Tebow And Colt McCoy Have Lunch, A Nation Groans

Now, I don’t mean to be crass, but… Did we really need to see that last media segment? GOOD LORD that reminded me why so many fans have loathed both of these guys for the past few years. Just horribly over-exposed in the media, uninteresting, and so.. boring. Like watching wax mannequins mimic real people. ZOMG LOOK HOW NORMAL THEY ARE.


All the disingenuous chuckles, the ho-hum answers to each other’s banal questions, and just the fact that a segment like that was actually happening. If you don’t have the privilege of watching the ceremony right now, the segment in question involved Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy having lunch together, having a comically staged "conversation" about college football, and preening for America. Or is America preening for them? Sometimes, it’s tough to tell. Because after all, ABC and ESPN were the ones that thought something likes would be a good idea.

If you wonder why people are rooting for Mark Ingram tonight, it's simple: he's not them.


The Favorites: Toby Gerhart And Mark Ingram

Finally, we have the two frontrunners, Stanford’s Toby Gerhart, and Alabama’s Mark Ingram. On some level, we’re talking about the same player, here. Both Gerhart and Ingram have been consistent all year, they both are the primary anchors for their team’s offense, and both had definitive "Heisman moments" before a National TV audience.

Against Notre Dame on national television two weeks ago, Gerhart bulldozed his way to 205 yards against the Irish defense, and threw a touchdown in addition to running for three others, one of which proved to be the game-winner. A pretty emphatic statement for Gerhart, and one that had ABC’s Brent Musberger openly cooing about Gerhart’s Heisman candidacy and NFL potential all throughout the broadcast.

As with so many others from the West Coast, Gerhart’s biggest weakness is that many Heisman voters don’t stay awake late enough to see him dominate. But while that’s certainly a legitimate claim, it’s also simplistic to suggest that’s hurt his candidacy this season. Because while the early bedtimes of many Heisman voters may have cost him some hype, it also means that those voters didn’t see just how terrible some of Gerhart’s defensive opponents were. He put up eye-popping numbers, sure. But against Pac-10 defenses, there’s an unmistakable asterisk that comes with it.

Now, as for Ingram… perhaps his greatest asset as a Heisman candidate isn’t what he’s done, but who he’s done it against. SEC defenses boast speed, size, and loads of NFL-caliber talent. To average 112 yards-per-game, as Ingram did, against a schedule like that, well… That’s just outstanding. No other way to explain it.

Despite occasionally splitting carries with his teammate Trent Richardson, Ingram put up numbers just as eye-popping as his peers, against a schedule that would make any Heisman voter blush, and for an undefeated Alabama team. Last week, while McCoy and Tebow faltered, and Toby Gerhart was idle, Mark Ingram exploded for three touchdowns against Florida’s dominant defense, in a decisive win for the Crimson Tide. 40005_sec_championship_alabama_florida_football_medium

Will that be enough to make him the 75th player to win the Heisman trophy? Time will tell, and as the ceremony gets under way as I type this, the answer’s not far off.


Colt McCoy: Undefeated, But Unremarkable

Simple as this: Colt McCoy has been the best player for an undefeated Texas team this season, and like Tebow, he’s been their best player for a few years now. He’s shown uncanny moxie on-and-off-the-field, and unlike Tebow, this year’s been one of his best. He’s thrown for more than 3,500 yards, completed 70% of his passes, and thrown for 27 touchdowns. Not bad, eh? Enough to win the Johnny Unitas award for the nation's best quarterback.


But more than that, he’s got the Longhorns on the verge of a national title, another in a series of impeccable seasons for McCoy. The only problem? All year long, McCoy’s been sort of unremarkable in the spotlight. Not bad, by any stretch, but not the sort of dominating, captivating superstar befitting a Heisman Trophy. Just last week, against Nebraska, he was upstaged by Ndamukong Suh, and even though Texas won, Colt McCoy left fans and media feeling ambivalent about his abilities as a passer.

On paper, McCoy’s got all the criteria you look for. But on film, and in games against Nebraska and Oklahoma, McCoy just looked a bit too ordinary. And in the race for an award given to the most "outstanding" player in college football, "ordinary" just doesn’t cut it.


The Tim Tebow Narrative: Will It Finish With A Heisman?

Tim Tebow’s story has been told and re-told and told once more. Everyone knows the words. From a deeply religious family, Tim Tebow was home-schooled before becoming a legend at his Jacksonville high school. And right around the time Tebow was making waves on the high school football field, Urban Meyer took over at Florida and made Tebow a top recruiting priority. The rest, as they say, is history.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Tebow’s time at Florida has been the stuff of legend. If college football had its own history textbook, the Tebow’s Gators over the past four years would have its own chapter. Truly, he’s been that good, for that long. Even as a freshman, he played a key role for Meyer’s Gators, and had fans in the swamp cooing over his every move on-and-off-the-field.

And yeah, off-the-field, Tebow’s been every bit the legend he was on it. The All-American smile and good looks, the deference to his coaches, teammates, and peers, and his unfailing religious devotion has won him millions of fans across the country and in the media. When he won the Heisman two years, it was part of a dream career that continued with last year's National Championship win, and another fabulous showing this year. From the beginning, he's been preternaturally gifted in ways that seem to defy the laws of the universe. Without a doubt, he’ll go down in history as one of the best ever.

But what about this season? With lackluster performances against Tennessee and Mississippi State, however preternaturally gifted, Tebow looked painfully human. And at no point did he look more vulnerable than last week vs. Alabama, when Florida was dismantled at the hands of the Crimson Tide. Afterward, Tebow could be seen openly weeping on the sidelines. About as human as it gets.

Tebow’s had a fabulous career—and no doubt he had his moments this season—but now comes tonight’s big question: Will Heisman voters remember his performances against Tennessee and Alabama, or reward him for a brilliant career with one, final exclamation point?

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