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The Ingram Legacy

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Fans have likely noticed something different when watching Melvin Ingram this season.

The Pro Bowler has worn the number 54 with his last name across his back ever since he entered the NFL in 2012. However, this year, he's one of several Chargers who jumped at the opportunity to add a suffix to their jersey. 

Thus, he now wreaks havoc on the field with Ingram III emblazed on his jersey.

However, fans likely don't know just how much adding a simple "III" means to the 29-year-old as it's in honor of his father.

Ingram was only nine years old when his father died right in front of him from a massive heart attack.  Thus, even this small gesture of changing his jersey is a profound one for the star edge rusher.

After all, his father was, and continues to be, his hero.

"He had a massive heart attack right in front of me," Ingram explained. "So everything I do, I do for him. I'll always live in his image. That's my big dog, so that's what I'll always do no matter what. Adding that to my jersey, I did that because that's who I represent. I know he would've been proud of me. That's why he's still living inside of me."

Ingram's deep devotion and love of his father, even though he's been gone for 20 years, is simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring. While he's spent each day since his passing trying to make him proud, he admits it wasn't easy at first.

Luckily, he soon found an outlet to deal with these emotions – football.

"I always played sports as a kid, but I got into organized football around 10," he said. "I took my anger out on the field. Whatever I was going through, I took the anger out on the field. It was therapeutic."

It also proved to be his calling.

In the midst of his seventh season, Ingram has established himself as one of the game's preeminent pass rushers. It wasn't an easy path, as his first few years in the league were plagued with adversity. Following an impressive rookie season, Ingram seemed primed for a breakout sophomore campaign. Instead, he tore his ACL early in OTAs, suffering an injury that would wipe out his entire season.

Or so he thought.

Ingram rigorously attacked his rehab with a tireless work ethic he inherited from his father. He somehow defied the odds and returned for the final four regular season games. The Chargers went on a 4-0 run with him back in the lineup to sneak into the playoffs. They made it to the second round thanks to a terrific performance by Ingram in their Wild Card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals as Ingram picked off Andy Dalton to all but seal the win.

Unfortunately, Ingram again faced adversity the very next year when a hip injury landed him on the Reserve/Injured list after just two games. He was designated for return, meaning he played in the team's final six games, but he faced several question marks heading into what many considered to be a make-or-break 2015 season.

To say he "made" it would be an understatement.

Ingram started and played in all 16 games for the very first time in 2015 while setting a career-high with 10.5 sacks. From that point forward, Ingram entrenched himself as one of the league's most ferocious pass rushers, striking fear into the hearts of opposing quarterbacks week in and week out.

As a result, the name Melvin Ingram is known from coast-to-coast as someone who brings it each and every snap…which is the exact same thing his father was known for.

Ingram has served as a captain for three years in a row, and he credits his father for imbuing in him the qualities needed to lead.

"My whole life I've been a leader," he said. "You don't just become a leader, you've got to be born with that (stuff). And I've got that in me, and that's because of him. Even when he was alive I was still a leader as a boy. It's just who we are (when you're an Ingram). I think about him every day. Everything he told me (resonates). He'd tell me, 'Be you. Always be you no matter what.' I am. The only person I know how to be is me."

Nowadays, Ingram isn't the only one continuing his father's legacy.

The Chargers star has passed along that responsibility to his son as he bequeathed him with the all-important name.

"Prince Melvin," Ingram with the type of pride only a father knows. "It was important (to name him that). My dad started a legacy. He started a legacy that I'll never let die (as) long as I'm on this Earth, and my son isn't ever going to let it die (as) long as he's on this Earth. So, it's a legacy that we're going to continue on forever."

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