Landing a Leader
By BJ Bennett
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On an offense with many established playmakers, Ingram's team-first persona will be one of his best fits.
After leading Alabama to the 2009 BCS National Championship and becoming the school's first-ever Heisman Trophy winner, former Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram will head south down the gulf to New Orleans, Louisiana as the second first-round draft pick of the Saints. His task will be simple: improve the league's 28th ranked rushing attack from a year ago. New Orleans was one of just five teams in the NFL to average less than 95 yards rushing per game in 2010.
His style will bring a new facet to one of the league's most dynamic attacks. Ingram, though just 5'9'', runs with a powerful downfield drive that allows him to glide through arm tacklers like a swimmer through water. He's much stronger than his height would suggest, think Maurice Jones Drew on his tippie-toes, and combines his brute force with open field elusiveness and anticipitory field vision.
On an offense with many established playmakers, Ingram's team-first persona will be one of his best fits. While he was the most dominant player in college football during his career at Alabama, he gladly shared time in the offensive backfield with underclassman Trent Richardson. One year after winning the Heisman Trophy in Tuscaloosa, Ingram saw his carries dip from 271 carries to 158 and his receptions go from 32 to 21. In Richardson and All-SEC wide receiver Julio Jones, drafted 6th by the division rival Atlanta Falcons, Alabama had other offensive options. Ingram, selfless and a leader in the locker room, celebrated the diversity.
His relationship with his backup Richardson in college was well-documented. Ingram became a mentor to the five-star prep All-American, offering tips and pointers as his understudy started to compile a legacy of his own. The two, who met at the Crimson Tide's A-Day spring game, are extremely close friends. Two years ago, their collective efforts helped set the physical tone for Alabama's undefeated season. Ironically enough, both topped the 100-yard mark against Texas in the national title bout.
In terms of his physical talent alone, Ingram was a steal late in the first round. As he prepares to compete for the starting running back position in New Orleans, the Saints are working to get back to their Super Bowl form from two years ago. While the talent was in place that season, so were the personalities. Team chemistry did play and continues to play a major role in the franchise's success. On paper, the Saints have drafted a tough, sturdy young runner. In reality, they have drafted much, much more.