Reflections On Ingram's Big Night
Alabama star tailback Mark Ingram was selected as the 75th winner of the Heisman Memorial Trophy recognizing him as the Most Outstanding College Football Player in the United States for 2009.
The slimmest margin of victory in the 75 year history of the award found the First Team All-American outdistancing Stanford running back Toby Gerhart by 28 votes supplanting the 45 point margin by Auburn's Bo Jackson over Iowa's Chuck Long in 1985.
Initially awarded in 1935, sixteen previous Tide players competing for the most prestigious award in sports have found coal-singed top-ten balloting in their Christmas Heisman tree tabulating stockings. Alabama has never been close to seizing the twenty-five pound bronzed cast trophy as past efforts have resembled Charlie Brown's attempt to kick the football from the proverbial deceptive holder Lucy known for snatching the pigskin away at the critical moment of contact. David Palmer's 292 point third place finish, Alabama's highest, was a galactic distance from 1993 winner Charlie Ward's 2310.
During the ESPN telecast of the ceremony, Ingram professed his love of star gazing and particularly the Big Dipper. Saturday night the football heavens welcomed the creation of a new gridiron star gracing his name at the pinnacle position of the "A" shaped cluster. Ingram begins the next decade as the most radiant celestial figure ever to don the Crimson and White outshining such luminaries as Johnny Mack Brown, Don Hutson, Harry Gilmer, Bart Star, Pat Trammell, Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Johnny Musso, Ozzie Newsome, Bobby Humphrey, David Palmer and Shaun Alexander.
Since the 1970's Lynyrd Skynryd's "Sweet Home Alabama" reigns as the Crimson Tide's adopted anthem blaring across the state signifying another football victory. Prior to the existence of the Southern Rock Band's most famous song, a 1934 jazz standard entitled "Stars Fell on Alabama" composed by Frank Perkins with lyrics by Mitchell Parish resonated with the faithful.
Mark Ingram's star fortunately fell South on Alabama from the Northern skies of his native Flint, Michigan. The versatile performer has been lighting up defenses ever since last year's first carry as a freshmen against Clemson. His Heisman campaign gained national momentum after the Bryant-Denny Stadium record 246 yards rushing against SEC foe South Carolina.
He carried the ball 249 times thus far in 2009, but none will equate to the mystical journey toting the fabled Heisman Trophy back to Tuscaloosa. Saturday evening all the Alabama legends of the past were his spiritual escorts to the podium. Ingram's promenade to the stage and proceeding acceptance speech endeared him to the national audience with his humility and appreciation for the historical significance.
He is a player prone to deflect glory to the efforts of his teammates and coaches. Even he could not shield himself from the individual accolades earned as the entire college football world heard Michael Comerford, of the Heisman Trophy Trust, announce Ingram as the winner.
The team-oriented Ingram's selection personified the Alabama program's long and illustrious history built with individuals embracing a philosophy for the singleness of purpose to reach a common goal – winning.
Walking east after leaving the celebratory atmosphere at the Marriott Marquis, I paused at the intersection of 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas to reflect on the evening's events. Glancing to my right the name on the sign struck me as a poetically coincidental – Bryant Park. Everything in Manhattan appeared to be crimson flavored.
Amidst the canyon of sky scrapers adjacent to the park was a clear view to gaze upon the sky and contemplate the thoughts of the legendary coach. Perhaps he would have modified his usual comments praising a running back if asked about Ingram from ‘He runs like an All-American' to ‘He runs like a Heisman Trophy winner'. Undoubtedly he would have been just as thrilled for Alabama's first Heisman Trophy winner as he was when his star Texas A&M pupil John David Crow won the award in 1957.
"I'm sure that Mark will be a good member of our group," said the only recipient of the distinguished award coached by Bryant. "I know with the great coaching he has had at Alabama not only on-the-field but off-the-field he will conduct himself in such a manner that will bring honor to this group."
Perched high in the heavens Bryant probably knew the outcome before any earth bound humans because he could hear the angels proclaiming a new addition. On a historical night in the city with the brightest lights, the star gazer became a heavenly body himself through hard work, dedication and pride.
His fellow students at the Capstone have prepped him for a lifetime of adoration by flashing the pose in his honor, college football's equivalent to genuflecting. Ingram's name justifiably will be emblazed across the sky of Alabama football lore forever as he made his permanent mark on the program's constellation winning the inaugural Heisman Memorial Trophy for the Crimson and White.
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