Editor’s Note: Chargers.com will take a look at one player from each position group with an interesting or compelling story as the NFL Draft approaches. We’ve already profiled San Diego State’s Brian Stahovich, Alabama’s DeQuan Menzie and Stanford’s Coby Fleener.
SAN DIEGO – He scored two touchdowns and recovered an onside kick in South Carolina’s 45-42 win over Georgia, landing the 2-0 Gamecocks a No. 12 national ranking.
It was the type of statement victory heralding just how far coach Steve Spurrier has taken the program and the type of game any offensive player would celebrate against an SEC East rival.
The rub? Melvin Ingram, 6-foot-1 ½, 264 pounds, isn’t a tight end or fullback. A one-year starter and athletic freak, Ingram matured into a pass-rush demon in 2011, making 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss.
The game against Georgia personified Ingram’s physical skills as he returned a fumble for a 5-yard score, took a fake punt 68 yards for another touchdown, and yes – as part of the hands team – recovered the only onside kick attempt against South Carolina’s hands unit all season.
How did he earn that role?
“Just playing around in practice every day doing the receiver drills and doing the running back drills,” Ingram explained. “My coaches just put me on it.”
Spurrier, half-serious, joked with a reporter that Ingram could’ve played running back as well, which he did in high school (Ingram also was a 225-pound score-first point guard on the basketball team).
Working out in California at Velocity Sports Performance, one current NFL linebacker heard about one of Ingram’s talents, but wouldn’t believe it until he saw for himself.
So Ingram busted out one of his standing backflips, impressing 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year and All-Pro Von Miller of the Denver Broncos.
“He just didn’t think I could do it,” Ingram said.
Analysts believe Ingram can play multiple spots along the defensive front, which could be attractive to teams with 3-4 defenses, though analysts project him as a 4-3 defensive end prospect as well. After taking part in outside linebacker drills in preparation for the NFL Combine, Ingram said the position felt “like second nature” to him. Whatever the case, Ingram will try to prove he can do it as a pass rusher at the NFL level after one breakout season in college.
Working to pattern his habits after Miller, Ingram wants to prove he can sustain his success, and at the highest level of football.
He missed the entire 2008 season with a broken foot, then came off the bench in 2009 and 2010 before getting his shot to start. Ingram did produce nine sacks as a reserve in ’10.
“Coming in and being in a situation where there was somebody in front of me, I had to play my role on the team,” Ingram said. “I did whatever the team needed me to do, and at that point in time it wasn’t for me to be a starter.”
Ingram’s proudest number from last season, though, is 11 – as in the school-record number of wins he helped South Carolina achieve.
“I feel like the 2011-12 season was the highlight of my career, being able to be a part of making history at South Carolina, getting the most wins ever,” Ingram said.
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