NEW YORK — Before the ceremony, Alabama running back Mark Ingram prayed backstage with Tim Tebow, the Florida quarterback who last week lost to Ingram and the Crimson Tide 32-13 in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
“We prayed for peace for him,” Tebow said. “He was nervous.”
Tebow and Ingram have formed an unlikely bond since the SEC championship game. On Saturday evening after the ceremony, Tebow joked that Ingram can now expect a “petting zoo” whenever he is introduced as a Heisman winner.
Tebow, who has a vote for the Heisman as a former winner, would not say if he included Ingram on his three-name ballot but did give Ingram credit for Alabama’s win in the SEC title game, which sent Alabama to the BCS National Championship Game and UF to the Sugar Bowl. Ingram rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries against Florida.
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“I think it capped it off for a lot of people who were in doubt because he had a great game and managed their offense and managed their clock — things a lot of people don’t take into account,” Tebow said.
“It’s not just the yards but the way he gets them — the slow first downs that just irritate the other team because you can’t get back on the field.
“The frigging nine-minute drive at the end of the game where we couldn’t get back on the field — I realized that game that he’s a real dude.”
Before Tebow won the Heisman in 2007, a sophomore had never won it. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, then a sophomore, followed Tebow as the 2008 Heisman winner.
Another close vote
Ingram’s margin of victory over Toby Gerhart of Stanford is the smallest in the history of the award. Coincidentally, the closest vote before Saturday included another running back from the state of Alabama. In 1985, Heisman winner Bo Jackson of Auburn received 45 more points than Iowa quarterback Chuck Long.
Ingram received 1,304 total points, followed by 1,276 points for Gerhart. Colt McCoy, Texas’ quarterback, received 1,145 points.
It’s the second consecutive year that three finalists received more than 1,000 points. Before 2008, it only happened once.
In 1967, Heisman-winning senior quarterback Gary Beban of UCLA, junior running back O.J. Simpson of Southern California and junior running back/cornerback Leroy Keyes of Purdue each received more than 1,000 points in voting.
Senior running back Larry Csonka of Syracuse finished fourth that year.