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January 4, 2010

Notebook: Heisman winner Ingram meets the media

NEWPORT BEACH _ So how long did it take University of Alabama running back Mark Ingram to be asked about the Heisman Trophy during his first interview at the BCS National Championship?

Not even three seconds.

"Everywhere you go, people know who you are," Ingram said. "Every time your name is said the words Heisman Trophy come after it. It's exciting but it's like being in a glass house, everybody knows what you're doing, everybody sees you all the time.

"Being in an airport like in Atlanta or Chicago, people just come up to you. That's how you know it's kind of different. A big city like that and people recognizing you, following you and trying to get autographs. The security will take me a back way so I can have a little bit of peace."

Ingram was asked about a variety of subjects as the key Alabama offensive players and coordinator Jim McElwain met with reporters early Monday morning. Among them:

No, he hasn't watched his Heisman speech, just a few clips of the ceremony, and he wasn't embarrassed about crying: "It was all in the moment. It was a rush."

The first thing his father said the next time they talked was, "Congratulations, but there's still more thing you have to go do." Still, it meant a lot to him. "He wasn't there to experience it," Ingram said. "Just to be able to bring that joy to him when he's having a hard time is real important to me, all of my family, my mother and my sisters, that I could do that for them was real special to me."

The last he heard, his mother still had the trophy on the middle of her kitchen table in Flint, Mich., but was planning to purchase something special to showcase it. "Back at home it's crazy," he said. "Everyone is just so proud. Some of them were happier than me."

Scores of people have been doing the Heisman pose in front of Ingram. "Some of the former guys, the older guys, it's kind of funny kind of seeing them do it," he said. "I've seen girls do it, little kids do it, grown men do it. Some people put up the wrong leg. But the trophy he has both legs on the ground. Some people put up two wrong legs, the wrong arm, I try and help them out, though."

Ingram shrugged off the question on if he would have voted for himself, with: "I don't know. Maybe next year."

Of course, Thursday will be the first time he's played since winning the award, and figures to be square in Texas' sights. Defensive tackle Lamarr Houston compared Ingram to former Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and said that stopping him would solidify the Longhorns' ranking as the nation's top run defense.

"We take great pride in what we do, and we've been pretty good on defense this year," linebacker Rodderick Muckelroy said. "We get a chance to go up against a good back in Ingram, he's the Heisman Trophy winner, so it'll be a good challenge for us and we can't wait."

Only one Heisman winner this decade went on to win the national championship, Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart.

"When people win awards, they kind of lose focus on what got them there, the success and what they had to do to get them there," Ingram said. "You can't lose sight of that."

Jones talks about injury
Sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones was limited by his sprained knee more than he was letting on.

"I can't really tell you because I'm not a trainer, but it was a little iffy," he said. "When I'd come out of my routes and fall down, it was real weak. But I'm healthy now.

"It limited me a lot. Some routes I couldn't run. It limited me to one side of the field, too. I couldn't run routes where I was pushing off that leg."

Jones said the hardest thing was cutting. After having 58 catches for 924 yards as a freshman, his production has dropped to 42 catches for 573 yards. However, he's had 29 receptions for 398 yards over the past six games, including the game-breaking 73-yard screen for a touchdown against LSU, and keyed the game-winning drive against Auburn.

"I think he's a very physical receiver, and he's a deep threat for them obviously," Texas safety Earl Thomas said. "I've seen him go against the best, and he made some of the best look not the best. We have our hands full with him, and I think we have a solid game plan going in. We're just going to try to be physical just like he is and bring the fight to him obviously and see what happens after that."

After taking a helmet to his knee against Florida International, Jones didn't start to really feel like himself again until South Carolina on Oct. 17.

"I was running my routes on DBs and not getting that open when I was banged up, but I started separating myself a little more after that," Jones said.

After having a sports hernia along with wrist and shoulder injuries last season, all of which required surgery, this may be the healthiest Jones has been since the beginning of his career.

His other problem this season, drops, has mostly occurred early in games.

"I'm just so amped up I need to settle down," Jones said. "I love the game and I love to make plays."

McElwain's future
Although he interviewed for the San Jose State head coaching job, things have otherwise been quiet for McElwain.

"I guess I must have an unlisted number," he said with a laugh. "What the heck? But I think we get into this business, obviously all of us someday would like to get forward and captain our own ship, and when the right thing comes along, and hopefully it does, we can maybe take that step."

However, it may not be long before his phone starts ringing, especially with former Nick Saban assistants in vogue, like Jimbo Fisher at Florida State and Will Muschamp, the coach in waiting at Texas.

"It obviously it helps," McElwain said. "What you do in this profession is maybe what you call the cafeteria effect. You like to take some things from different guys and how they've done them. I think what he's done is wrap that all into one. It's invaluable. I don't know how you could put a price tag on that."

Practice report
Another sunny day and the team again worked out at Orange County College. Everyone participated, but junior running back Terry Grant (abdominal strain) still wasn't doing much and has to be considered doubtful. Senior running back Roy Upchurch was also seen wearing black (no contact) at the end of Monday's practice.

Thursday's forecast is partly cloudy with a high of 71, but considerably cooler after the sun sets with a low of 48.

Both teams will go through media day Tuesday and hold a final practice before holding a walkthrough at the Rose Bowl stadium on Wednesday. After being here since Jan.1, everyone's getting a little anxious for kickoff to arrive.

"Well, I can say restless because we've been doing a lot of activities from 8 (a.m.) to 8 (p.m.), so we'd like to get more sleep," Texas linebacker Sergio Kindle said. "But yeah, of course, I feel like everybody wants to play today, but you know, we still have a couple more things we could prepare for or fine-tune in the next couple of days. So yeah, we want to play today, but I feel like we'll be better off waiting until the seventh before we unleash, you know what I mean?"

Tide-bits
McElwain didn't answer a question on who is Alabama's backup quarterback for Thursday between Star Jackson and A.J. McCarron. "It's one of those deals I hope we don't have to worry about it." He also dodged the question on why Alabama hasn't used the pistol formation the last couple of games, with "I just got bored."

TCU coach Gary Patterson was named the winner of the 2009 Football Writers Association of America/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award and will be presented with the trophy here Tuesday. Saban, who won last year, was one of seven finalists.

Junior quarterback Greg McElroy reflected Monday on how his life has come full circle. "It's kind of a storybook ending, I think, to my junior year of college football," he said. "Obviously I was born in L.A., lived here until I was 10, moved to Texas, grew up rooting for Texas Tech, just really loved them. I loved the offense, I loved their quarterbacks, B.J. Symons, Sonny Cumbie, all those guys, and I think I always had a really great respect for the Texas Longhorns. I went to every Red River Shootout and I always rooted for Texas in that game, because I cannot stand Oklahoma. But I think that was just kind of -- it's pretty neat to be able to play those guys. It's just you see the white helmet and you see Texas right underneath the collar, you see the burnt orange and you see Bevo, and it's things like that. It's really neat to go and play these guys, and it's a dream come true for me to be able to play my home state school in the place where I was born and raised.

Kindle is one of the Texas defenders Alabama will be keying," McElroy said. "I've known Sergio for a number of years. He's a Woodrow Wilson kid, he's from Dallas. He's a freak, for lack of a better term. He's a stud. He plays fast. He plays smart. He's great in pass rush, he's great in pass coverage. He's one of those rare hybrids that you see. Being a Cowboys fan, he reminds me a lot of DeMarcus Ware, I guess. He just is so versatile, and he can make things really difficult for an offensive lineman or quarterback just because of the tenacity and ferociousness he plays with. He's going to be a handful, but hopefully we'll be able to handle him somewhat because you can't ever stop him."

Muschamp was more impressed with McElwain than McElroy in the SEC Championship Game: "I think more than anything, early in the game, Jim McElwain did a great job of calling the game. He thought out of the box a little bit and got in some different personnel groupings, spread the field on Florida and got them on their heels a little bit early in the game, and then that opened up some things in the running game and obviously the slip screen before halftime was a huge play for them. So very accurate with the ball in that football game, played very well, got the ball in the right spots, took it to the right places, converted to 3rd down form in key scramble situations. But Jim did a great job of calling it early in the game, got Florida on their heels, gave them some different looks, and they just played well."


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