New York (AP) — Mark Ingram dabbed his eyes, took a deep breath and tried
to steady himself. All set, he accepted the Heisman that completes
Alabama's trophy case.
The tough-running tailback turned tearful
after winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in the closest vote
in the award's 75-year history. Next, he'll try to lead the most
storied program in the South to a national championship.
Ingram finished 28 points ahead of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.
sturdy, 212-pound Ingram took a moment to get composed before starting
his speech. Dressed in a dark suit with blue pinstripes, his voice
"I'm a little overwhelmed right now," he said. "I'm just so excited to bring Alabama their first Heisman winner."
received 227 first-place votes and 1,304 points. Gerhart got 222
first-place votes and 1,276 points, while Texas quarterback Colt McCoy,
last season's runner-up, received 203 and 1,145.
Ingram said later he was feeling relaxed — right up until the winner was announced.
he started reading that letter, my heart started beating and I could
feel it beating real fast," he said. "When he called my name I was
excited, then I saw my mom crying and it kind of made me break down,
His father, a former Super Bowl star, was a few miles away.
Incarcerated on bank fraud and money-laundering charges, he watched his
son's big win on a prison television.
Nebraska defensive tackle
Ndamukong Suh was fourth and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who won the
Heisman two years ago, was fifth.
The previous closest vote in
Heisman history came in 1985, when Auburn's Bo Jackson beat Iowa
quarterback Chuck Long by 45 points.
Ingram won four of the six regions. Gerhart took the far west and Suh won the southwest.
appreciate the way he plays," said Gerhart, who ran for 1,736 yards and
scored 26 touchdowns. "The passion for the game. I'm a physical guy,
he's a physical guy. I feel we're similar in a lot of ways. I'm proud
of him and honored to be included with him."
Ingram has been the
backbone of Alabama's offense, rushing for a school-record 1,542 yards,
gaining 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 18 touchdowns.
And in his
final chance to make a case for the Heisman, facing Florida's
then-top-ranked defense, Ingram ran for 113 yards and scored three
touchdowns to punctuate his season.
The win sent the top-ranked
Crimson Tide to the BCS national title game against McCoy and No. 2
Texas on Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl.
"This is a great, special
moment for me but at the same time you've got to move forward," Ingram
said. "We still have a national championship game to play in."
hugged family members and Alabama coach Nick Saban after winning, and
went to the podium. As he searched for the proper words, several former
Heisman winners standing behind him offered encouragement, saying "take
your time" and "it's all right."
Ingram thanked everyone he could
think of, including teammates, coaches, trainers, support staff, an
intern and his school teachers.
Ingram is the third consecutive
sophomore to win the Heisman since Tebow became the first in 2007 and
he will be the sixth winner in the last seven years to go on to play in
the BCS national championship game.
Few college football teams
can match Alabama's history of success. The Crimson Tide dominated the
Southeastern Conference for decades. With six AP national
championships, only Notre Dame and Oklahoma have won more.
But at Alabama, it's a coach who has towered over the program more than any player.
Bryant led some of college football's greatest players — from Joe
Namath to John Hannah, Ken Stabler to Ozzie Newsome — but never had a
player even finish in the top three of the Heisman voting over his more
than three decades at Alabama.
"The legacy of Alabama football certainly had a void filled," Saban said.
Palmer, the shifty receiver and return man, was third in the Heisman
voting in 1993, the best finish by a Crimson Tide player.
No major college program had won more games without a Heisman winner.
that's been in the Alabama family has been supporting me," Ingram said
before hoisting the bronze statue. "Walking to class, students flashed
me the Heisman pose."
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.
sure it'll be in the trophy cases with all those national championships
and all the other awards people have won," he said later.
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.
came to Tuscaloosa from Flint, Mich., the son of the former Michigan
State and NFL receiver of the same name. Saban had been a coach at
Michigan State when the elder Ingram was in college.
Sr. starred for the New York Giants, but last year he was sentenced to
almost eight years in prison. Then he did not show up at the federal
prison in Kentucky to serve his sentence, which might cost him even
He 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 been able to watch his son play.
"My father has been a great influence on my life and I love him to death," Ingram said on the podium.
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.