In a way, the most amazing thing about Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy-winning season isn’t that there were at one point three credible candidates from Alabama, which could have easily split the vote, but that Ingram was the first member of the Crimson Tide to earn the honor.
Not Joe Namath or Ken Stabler. Not Cornelius Bennett. Not John Hannah (OK, a guard might have been a stretch). Not even Don Hutson (testing you on that one: Hutson’s college career ended the year before the first Heisman was presented).
On Labor Day weekend of 2009, quarterbacks Tim Tebow (+225), Colt McCoy (+300) and Sam Bradford (+325) were the only three players given decent odds of taking the trophy.
You couldn’t even put down a bet on Ingram until Week 4, and that was at +3300.
Ingram's Run Up the Heisman Oddsboard
'Bama had opened with a 10 point win over a top 10 team in Virginia Tech, with Ingram chosen player of the game, and then cruised over Florida International and North Texas. SEC play began with the Tide downing Arkansas 35-7, but it was Trent Richardson, not Mark Ingram, who carried the mail that day.
By now, a knee injury knocked Bradford out of action for several weeks and ended his chances of repeating as the Heisman winner. Meanwhile, McCoy was in the process of leading Texas to an undefeated season and was +350, while Tebow’s Gators were also undefeated and their QB was +200.
The idea of three Alabama players splitting Heisman voting was no longer being talked about, as quarterback Greg McElroy had fallen to also ran status at +3300, though a spec bet on wide receiver Julio Jones at +10000 must have been tempting.
Week 5 against Kentucky: Ingram, whose stats had actually been fairly pedestrian since the opener against Tech, got on track, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns. (Kentucky has two wins over Alabama in more than a hundred years of games between the two).
Still, there were 10 players considered to have shorter odds than Ingram, in what looked increasingly like a two-man Heisman race.
The Tide kept rolling through the SEC, with wins at Ole Miss (172 yards and a TD), and then at home to South Carolina (246 yards and a score, SEC offensive player of the week), Tennessee (99) and LSU (144), before a road win at Mississippi State (149 yards and two touchdowns, one of them on a 70-yard run).
“…Ingram found an opening in the middle and accelerated untouched through an exhausted Bulldogs defense,” said ESPN’s game story.
“The play was in sharp contrast to what the rest of the game was like for the Heisman Trophy candidate. Until that run, he had a fairly workmanlike performance with just two carries of more than 10 yards and seemed headed for a quiet night. Though he did follow gargantuan defensive tackle Terrence Cody in from the 1 to give Alabama a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Like McElroy, Ingram feels he has some critics to answer -- and that run was quite the retort.
‘Everybody thinks I'm just a power back, but I've got speed, too," said Ingram, who rushed for 149 yards. "That was big.’"
Ingram Joins Tebow, McCoy atop Oddsboard
Alabama, Florida and Texas were now all undefeated and Ingram, Tebow and McCoy were now all +250.
A two-man race suddenly had three contenders.
Things got a little wonky, though, as a subpar performance by Ingram in a 26-21 Iron Bowl squeaker (30 yards rushing on 16 attempts) briefly made McCoy the Heisman favorite.
Luckily for Ingram, McCoy then got sacked nine times, including 4.5 by Ndamukong Suh, as Texas survived Nebraska 13-12 in the Big 12 championship. Suh briefly got some love from bettors, and was +500 on the week of the Heisman announcement.
In the SEC championship game, Ingram ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns, and caught two passes for 76 yards, surpassing Bobby’s Humphrey’s single-season rushing record for the Crimson Tide, reaching 1,542 rushing yards on the year.
Ingram was dynamic…, making a strong case to add another piece to Alabama’s rich football history. No Crimson Tide player has ever won the Heisman Trophy, and Ingram’s performance will help his chances, reported the New York Times.
He ran through would-be tackles all afternoon on his way to 113 yards rushing on 28 carries and 76 receiving yards. His three rushing touchdowns equaled the amount of rushing touchdowns the Gators had yielded all season.
He is almost assured an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York and is probably the front-runner for the award after his most obvious competitor, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, struggled mightily against Nebraska.
“I would feel real good to go represent our school, this rich tradition that we have and all the Alabama family,” Ingram said. He added that he did not know if he would be able to visit his father, the former Giants receiver Mark Ingram, who is incarcerated in Queens.
That result did in fact send Ingram to the Downtown Athletic Club, and Bama to the BCS championship game.
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in the closest vote in the award's 75-year history, edging out Toby Gerhart by just 28 points.
Toby Who? Where'd He Come From?
At this point, you’d be justified in saying of Gerhart: who?
The Stanford running back led the FBS in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and points scored, but the Cardinal was 8-5.
Gerhart started the season at +10000 in the Heisman odds, but entered the week of the presentation at +350, while McCoy was +125 and Ingram -250.
As well as being Alabama's first Heisman winner, he was the third consecutive sophomore to win the award, the first running back to win since Reggie Bush and the youngest winner ever, nine days shy of his 20th birthday when he was handed the trophy.
“I’m a little overwhelmed right now,” he said at the ceremony.
Weirdly, it was the only major award won by Ingram, despite being a finalist for the Maxwell Trophy and the Walter Camp player of the year awards, and the Doak Walker Award for best running back, all of which went to other players.
“The legacy of Alabama football certainly had a void filled,” said Nick Saban, who had never even had a Heisman finalist before.
With all ballots submitted online for the first time and the race a close one, nearly all voters waited until the last minute to cast a ballot. Of the 904 tabulated votes, 89 percent weren’t turned in until the final few days, following Ingram’s 189 total yards and three touchdowns against the Gators, which to that point boasted the nation’s top-ranked defense.
“I realized that game he’s a real dude,” said Tim Tebow.