Alabama's Mark Ingram wins Heisman

By RALPH D. RUSSO, AP College Football Writer Modified: December 12, 2009 at 9:18 pm •  Published: December 12, 2009
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Now he can take his place among Alabama's greats and the Paul W. Bryant Museum has a new piece of a hardware to display.

The announcement that Ingram had won came minutes before the Alabama men's basketball team was set to host No. 5 Purdue, prompting an immediate roar from the mostly full Coleman Coliseum.

Even though the presentation wasn't shown on the videoboard, fans instantly found out the news. The public-address announcer congratulated Ingram early in the game, bringing another big ovation. One young fan sat at courtside sporting a 22 jersey — Ingram's number — with “Heisman” across the top.

By midway through the first half, Heisman T-shirts were already on sale at the arena.

Ingram came to Tuscaloosa from Flint, Mich., the son of the former Michigan State and NFL receiver of the same name. Tide coach Nick Saban had coached the elder Ingram in college.

Mark Ingram Sr. was a Super Bowl hero for the New York Giants, but last year he was sentenced to almost eight years in prison on bank-fraud and money-laundering charges. Then he did not show up at the federal prison in Kentucky to serve his sentence, which might cost him even more time.

The elder Ingram was found hiding out in a Michigan hotel the same day his son played Utah in the Sugar Bowl last season.

He has been serving his time in a New York City holding facility, where he's better able to watch his son's games on TV.

“My father has been a great influence on my life and I love him to death,” Ingram said on the podium.

The father has seen his son quickly blossom into a feature back. As a freshman last season, Ingram was Bama's No. 2 back, with a nose for the goal line. He ran for 728 yards and a team-high 12. This season, he's been the best weapon on an offense with a first-year starting quarterback and a rebuilt offensive line.

And he's been at his best against most of Alabama's best competition. He opened the season with 150 yards rushing and two TDs against Virginia Tech, had 172 yards rushing at Mississippi, and set a Bryant-Denny Stadium record with 246 yards versus South Carolina.

In what was billed as the year of the quarterback — with Tebow, McCoy and last year's Heisman winner Sam Bradford — all returning to college, Ingram emerged as the Heisman front-runner at midseason.

His only poor game, a 30-yard rushing performance against Auburn on Nov. 27, came at the worst time and in front of a national television audience.

But with the Tide playing in the biggest game of the season, a No. 1 vs. No. 2 SEC championship against Florida, Ingram had one more chance to impress voters — and he delivered.

Tide fans like to say their team is about winning championships, not Heismans.

Thanks to Ingram, Alabama might get both this season.