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December 12, 2009NEW YORK _ If one more person should have been thanked during University of Alabama sophomore running back Mark Ingram's acceptance speech, it was Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Heading into last week's Big 12 Championship Game, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was considered the clear favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, only to be sacked nine times by the Cornhuskers, including 4.5 by Suh who also had 12 tackles.
Consequently, McCoy finished third with Suh taking away a lot of his votes.
"I won't take pride in it," Suh said earlier this week. "We wanted to go out and win the game. One way or another, we wanted to destroy his hopes. But this award is about an individual who is perceived as the best in college football and he beat us and got to the national championship.
"He's a great quarterback. He can run and pass. We mainly wanted to get in his face and have him running for his life. We wanted him to be uncomfortable back there. If he's comfortable, he'll sit back and pick you apart. We got after him, got nine sacks and quite a few hurries. For the most part, we did our job."
The performance vaulted Suh into a fourth for the Heisman. He also won the Bednarik (defensive player), Lombardi (lineman), Nagurski (defensive player), and Outland (interior lineman) awards, the first player to ever sweep all four.
Overall, he's made 82 tackles to go with 12 sacks, which are even more impressive considering his position.
"Four and a half sacks is pretty ridiculous for a nose guard in the two-gap defense," Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said, also calling him a "dominant player."
"I can't pronounce his name so I just call him the beast from Nebraska," Stanford running back Toby Gerhart said.
Nevertheless, Suh was still surprised to be a Heisman finalist.
"I was ecstatic to be here," he said.
Ingram was asked about a variety of topics here, including:
What was beating No. 1 Florida like? "We knew going in that they were a great team. We knew they had great athletes, had a great coaching staff, were well coached, athletic, we knew that we were going to be in for a battle, that we were going to have to go in and execute and have a flawless game. We just went in with the mindset that we weren't going to be denied."
Can you believe that your name is about to rank among the Tide's all-time greats? "All the All-Americans, all the SEC championships, all the national championships, all the bowl victories, all the great coaches and players who have come through here, it's kind of crazy to me that no one has ever won the Heisman Trophy, not one person. That I have the opportunity to represent the university, all the past players, all the coaches, all the alumni, fans, teammates, coaches and my family, it's just real special to me."
Which would you rather have, the Heisman or the national championship? "The national championship, most definitely. It's a team sport and me and my team we worked so hard to get this point and create this opportunity for ourselves. The ultimate goal for me is to win the national championship."
McCoy had a similar answer, and added, "I'm sure Mark would say the same thing."
They said it
"When he started reading that letter, my heart started beating and I could feel it beating real fast. When he called my name I was excited, then I saw my mom crying and it kind of made me break down, too." - Ingram.
"I appreciate the way he plays. 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." - Gerhart.
"This is a great, special moment for me but at the same time you've got to move forward. "We still have a national championship game to play in." - Ingram.
"The legacy of Alabama football certainly had a void filled." - Saban.
"My father has been a great influence on my life and I love him to death." - Ingram.
Ingram was the 40th running back to win the Heisman Trophy, but just the eighth since 1985. The only running back to win the award this past decade was Southern California's Reggie Bush in 2005.
Ingram is the ninth Southeastern Conference player history to win, joining Frank Sinkwich (Georgia, 1942), Billy Cannon (LSU, 1959), Steve Spurrier (Florida, 1966), Pat Sullivan (Auburn, 1971), Herschel Walker (Georgia, 1982), Bo Jackson (Auburn, 1985) and Danny Wuerffel (Florida, 1996), and Tebow (2007).
Ingram is the third straight sophomore to win the award. Tebow was the first sophomore to win the award in 2007 and finished third in 2008. Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford won last year. "I'm a competitor so I'd like to win, but I don't think I will," he said beforehand.
The other finalists said that McCoy was surprised to win three awards earlier this week, including the Maxwell and Walter Camp for player of the year, along with the Davey O'Brien for quarterback of the year. He was also presented with the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for the best senior quarterback.
The last Heisman winner to wear No. 22 was Doug Flutie with Boston College in 1984. John Cappelletti of Penn State also wore the number in 1973.
Contributing to Ingram being calm through the live broadcast was Tebow taking him aside for a while to help ease his nerves and the two prayed together.