But he isn’t among finalists this time
By MICHAEL CASAGRANDE
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
Just a year ago, Mark Ingram gave one of the more memorable Heisman Trophy speeches after winning the closest vote in history.
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His tearful speech was punctuated by the support shown by past winners who stood by behind him in the emotional moment.
This evening, he will be back on that stage but in a much different role -- one that isn’t common for an underclassman winner who returns the following season.
A University of Alabama spokesman confirmed Ingram made the flight to New York to take in this evening’s ceremony despite not being named a finalist.
That makes Ingram the only winner who returned to school and played the following season not among those still vying for the trophy since. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford missed practically his entire junior season with a shoulder injury after winning the Heisman as a sophomore in 2008. The rest of the non-senior winners either returned as finalists or went pro.
Ingram’s junior year wasn’t exactly injury-free, but he played in all but the first two games of the 2010 season. His carries dropped from 271 in 14 games as a sophomore to 146 through 10 games of his junior year, just as his rushing total was nearly cut in half from 1,658 to 816.
A preseason knee injury kept him out of the opener with San Jose State and the Week 2 visit from Penn State before returning to pick up his only two 100-yard games of the year at Duke and Arkansas.
After that, production waned as defenses keyed on stopping the Alabama running game. His next two highest rushing totals came at Tennessee (88 yards) and LSU (97).
Being a past winner, Ingram also earned a ballot to vote in all future Heisman races. He never publicly acknowledged whom he voted for but has hinted that he was leaning toward Auburn’s Cam Newton.