NFL Draft  

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Ingram's 'Bama boys help Heisman winner bear emotional night

  • By Vic Carucci NFL.com
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NEW YORK -- A touching scene played out late in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

There, in the green room behind the stage in Radio City Music Hall, sat an anxious Mark Ingram. By then, three of his former Alabama teammates already had been selected by NFL teams. Pre-draft fears that the running back would slip into the latter portion of the round -- and possibly out of it altogether -- were coming true.

So members of Ingram's Crimson Tide family still on hand -- coach Nick Saban, who was doing work for NFL Network, and wide receiver Julio Jones, whom the Atlanta Falcons made the sixth overall pick after a trade with the Cleveland Browns, and Jones' family -- believed Ingram could use support beyond what he already was receiving from his actual relatives. And as the draft continued without the name of the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner being called, they sat with him and waited.

"It meant the world to me," Ingram said.

Finally, Ingram's phone rang. The New Orleans Saints were on the line to inform him he was their selection with the 28th overall choice, which they received from the New England Patriots in a trade. That gave Alabama its fourth first-rounder of the draft after defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (No. 3, Buffalo Bills), Jones and offensive tackle James Carpenter (No. 25, Seattle Seahawks).

"Julio waited 22 picks for me to go," Ingram said. "He and coach Saban and the others supported me, they were encouraging me the whole time, telling me to keep my head up and that everything was going to work out.

"I've got to thank them so much. It just shows how close the Alabama family is that they would stay there for me. It was just amazing that they rallied behind me and just stayed with me until I got picked."

It was an emotional night for all of the Alabama representatives after tornadoes struck the state Wednesday, causing death and destruction. Just before the start of the draft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell called for a moment of silence for the victims.

"Alabama's a special place to me," Ingram said. "Tuscaloosa is a special place to me, so to watch the pictures and watch the videos and just see how much damage it did to the city and see how it affected everybody down there, that really touched my heart. I have to send my prayers and my heart out to all the people in Alabama and all the people in Tuscaloosa. We're definitely looking forward to helping in any way we can."

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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