It Seems Ingram Made Right Choice

Most people who are asked, "Which is the contact sport, golf or football?" would answer, "What, you got marshmallow for brains? Football, you dolt. Golf is for sissies." My grandfather told me at an early age that golf was the best contact sport. "That's where you'll make the contacts that will help you most," he counseled.

Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban once coached in the state of Michigan, head coach at Michigan State. In those days golf was a fall sport, same as football. And for that reason, Mark Ingram had to make a decision a few years ago: football or golf?

Ingram is no sissy. Even though he shot a fabulous golf score of 69 in a qualifying tournament when in the eighth grade, when it came decision time, it was football.

Ingram said he quit playing golf in high school because of his commitments to football, basketball and track. Even though Michigan high schools changed golf to a spring sport by his senior year, he was then committed to track. Besides, he said, he followed that 69 with an 81. "That was depressing," he said.

Saban has to be pleased with Ingram's choice of sports. The 5-10, 215-pound sophomore is leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing (125 yards per game) and scoring (8.2 points per game). Alabama is 8-0 and ranked second in the nation and 5-0 and leading the Western Division of the SEC. Bama is off this weekend, then hosts LSU (6-1, 4-1) at 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday, November 7, in Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game.

Alabama practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the bye week.

"It's time for everybody to get refocused and finish out the season strong," Ingram said. "This is a week where everybody needs to get refocused on getting back to the small things that help you succeed, getting back to the fundamentals. You kind of get away from that during the season, game planning and everything, but this is a week for everyone to refocus and focus on the small things that help us be successful and win games."

The sophomore said he had not been looking to the open week. "I was really more focused on winning the game against Tennessee than the bye week," he said. "The bye week was going to come. It was a one-game season finishing vs. Tennessee strong. But it's a bye week now so everybody has a chance to get healthy and refocused and finish out the season strong."

Ingram said the only lost fumble of his Alabama career, coming in the final 3:29 against Tennessee and contributing to the Vols' near-comeback win, is not something he dwells on. "I was upset about it the day it happened, but you've got to get over it and tgry to work hard so it doesn't happen again," he said. "I was fighting for extra yards. I could have done a better job putting two hands on the ball, but really I was falling and they made a great play.

"I have to make sure I'm more careful in that situation. You've got the ball, milking the clock, and the only way they can get the ball back is by a turnover. You have to be more careful about that.

"I wasn't, so it bit us in the butt. I've just got to learn from my mistake."

Following Tennessee's recovery of Ingram's fumble, the Vols were able to drive for a touchdown, cutting the Alabama lead to only 12-10. Then Tennessee recovered an onsides kick and drove to the Bama 25 to try a 44-yard field goal that would win the game for the Vols.

Ingram said he felt "helpless. I couldn't do anything to help the team. I was just watching. It was a bad feeling, that I had put the team in that situation."

For those who haven't heard, the story has a happy ending. Terrence Cody blocked Tennessee's field goal try and Bama was able to celebrate victory over the Vols."

Ingram has been particularly successful running from the tailback spot with a direct snap in the wildcat formation. Everyone wants to know if there might be a pass coming from Ingram. Since opponents, particularly, would like that information, Ingram is coy. "I don't know," he said. "Maybe we'll throw it sometime."

Ingram has given some thought to getting the old golf sticks out and spending some time at the range to knock the rust off. He has teammates who play and quarterback Greg McElroy and snapper Brian Selman have invited Ingram to join them. But he turned them down.

"It was in the summer and it was too hot," Ingram said.


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