Alabama RB Mark Ingram, projected top running back in the 2011 NFL draft, takes a bite out of his larger-than-life statue made of SUBWAY Orchard Chicken Salad, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in New York, to celebrate his new partnership with the sandwich chain. The sculpture, made by artist James Victor of Conshohocken, Pa., weighs 40 pounds and includes SUBWAY Orchard Chicken Salad ingredients such as chicken salad, golden raisins, cranberries, apples, celery and freshly baked bread. SUBWAY Orchard Chicken Salad is Ingram's favorite sandwich, and is the featured $5 Footlong during the month of May. (Diane Bondareff/AP Images for SUBWAY)
Yes, that picture is what you think it is. And when we got to talk to Ingram on the morning of the draft, we started out by asking what he thought of the life-size sub — did he ever dream that he'd be a likely first-round draft pick (the final first-round Shutdown Corner mock draft has him going No. 17 to the New England Patriots) with a still-life sandwich to boot?
"Yeah, we just left it," Ingram said. "It's cool. [laughs] No I didn't think that. It was real cool to see how they made me out of chicken salad, and apples and cranberries, and chicken and, you know, raisins—all that. It's crazy. It was fun. It was cool to see."
Here were the other questions we had for Mark, and he was kind enough to spend a few minutes with us on a very momentous day.
Shutdown Corner: What has the draft process been like for you?
Mark Ingram: It's been great. It's something I've been dreaming of my whole life. Just to be able to go to the combine, and Pro Day, and visiting all the teams, it's been exciting.
SC: Where did you train?
MI: I was training in New Orleans with Wyatt Harris.
SC: What was it like in 2009, to bring a Heisman to the Crimson Tide?
MI: Just being able to bring extra thing at Alabama. Because all those championships, and all the great players that have come in, nobody had won the Heisman, so to be able to bring that Heisman to Alabama was special to me and important for my family. To be able to overcome so much adversity in life, so that was good for my family and for Alabama.
SC: Do you talk with your dad a lot?
MI: Yeah, we talk a couple times a week…He's my Dad. He's been there for me every step of the way.
SC: What was working with Nick Saban like? He's a pro-style guy, and is known as a taskmaster.
MI: Coach is great. He's just a guy who's going to demand perfection out of you. He's going to teach you to be the best player you can be, and the best person you can be. I think coach Saban has everything to do with why a lot of the guys who come out of this program are prepared for the next level.
SC: You are a very versatile back — rushing, blocking, receiving. That takes a lot of work, and I'm sure you take a lot of pride in that.
MI: I take pride in it because I don't want to be a situational guy. I don't want to be in there on first and second down and have to come out on third down, or just be in on third down and not be in on the other downs. I want to be able to do it all. I can rush for yardage, goal-line. I can run inside, outside, catch the ball, pass pro. I'd like to be known as a versatile back, because that's separate — there's not many of them anymore because everything is so situational. So yeah, there's [running] backs for every situation, so a guy that can stay on the field and play all four downs is very important.
SC: You're also very instinctive when it comes to reading blocks and knowing when to wait and when to bolt through the gap. How much of that is instinct, and how much is footwork?
MI: It's definitely a little bit of both. I think that God blessed me with the ability that I can be instinctive in that matter, but it also takes film work, understanding blocking schemes, knowing defenses, being familiar with your opponent so you can make the right read. Know when your offensive line is [inaudible] the linebackers, or when they're pulling, things like that I think are important to the blocking scheme, but being instinctive, as well. They go hand-in-hand together.
SC: How much was blocking stressed at Alabama?
MI: If you can't protect the quarterback, you can't play. You got to be able to pick up the blitz, you got to be able to understand pressures and blitzes that defenses are giving you. That comes from film work, knowing the looks they're giving you, knowing the different fronts — when corners rolled up, or safeties roll down — things like that. You have to know all that in order to be able to stay on the field for all three downs and be able to be effective in the pass pro game, as well.
SC: Is your straight-line speed underrated, especially downfield?
MI: Yeah, I think so. I think we get caught up in the times a little bit, but when you turn on the film, I've had a numerous amount of runs over 40 yards, like two 70-yarders. So I've had a lot of big runs before, so…I think the tape doesn't lie.
SC: Are you ready to be that bell cow back who defines an offense?
MI: Yeah, definitely. They just think that my versatility can help their team succeed, so that's the compliments I'm getting from a lot of teams. They like that I can contribute in a lot of different phases of the game.
SC: Which teams have you visited?
MI: I visited about nine teams. I did a workout with Miami, I went to New Orleans, I went to Washington, St. Louis, Tampa, New England, Atlanta…
SC: Do you have a preference for a specific type of offense?
MI: I'm going to adjust to whatever offense I go to.
SC: What about the pro-readiness aspect of the Alabama offense — how much did that help you? Did you run more zone, man, power, stretch?
MI: All different varieties. It just depends on the gameplan and the scheme the coaches want to run. We had all those runs in our playbook.
SC: Did coach Saban give you advice about the transition to the NFL?
MI: He's given different advice. He still does. He just calls and supports us and helps us go through the process, so he's been a real help throughout this whole process.
SC: Where will you be on Draft Day?
MI: I'm going to be in Radio City Music Hall.
- Mark Ingram