Ingram’s a long snapper now, and he’s still a football player
ON paper, you'd have to say he's achieved everything he'd ever wanted, he's living every walk-on's dream. He's won a full scholarship now, he plays a key role on a preseason Top 25 team. He's made it. Everything. Except ...
Except as yesterday's second day of training camp wound down, as Hawaii's kickers stretched and sat while their teammates kept sweating through drill after drill, Jake Ingram was nowhere to be found. He'd wandered more than 40 yards away, to where he'd rather be; he was staring out wistfully at his beloved defensive line.
"It's still tough," kicker Dan Kelly says. "He still misses it."
But he's finally accepted it. He's a long snapper now. "He's a long-snapping maniac," the kicker says.
He's decided to embrace it.
"Maybe it'll get me somewhere," Jake Ingram says.
INGRAM IS SO good at what he does, so accurate, so valuable, he's on scholarship for a single skill. (June Jones said in May 2006 that Ingram had been slated for a full-ride the following spring -- but when UH lost scholarships due to its APR score there wasn't one available for Ingram until now.)
Which means the junior out of Mililani is officially a specialist, something he chafed at at first. "I felt like I wasn't a football player," he says.
He kept showing up at practice with the D-linemen, jumping in when the coaches weren't looking, to the point where he was officially banned from any and all defensive drills. He was just too valuable.
"Every time he goes out there he's in a critical-down situation," former position coach Jeff Reinebold says.
Still, Ingram would continue to go to the D-line meetings, an unspoken statement: Hey, I'm still a football player.
"It feels good to just be in meetings," he says.
IF HE HAD any doubt that what he does -- delivering the ball perfectly each time on place-kicking and punt plays -- was that important, it was hammered home in last season's loss at Boise State. Kicking-game mistakes were crucial, and Ingram stepped forward to take the blame. That night, the team was laid over at the airport for more than 5 hours.
"That's all I was thinking about," he says.
It was a rough week or so. But then Jones sent him back into the lineup. He's been money ever since.
"My team had my back the whole way," he says.
It still does. Yesterday, it was raucous at the end of practice as the guys gathered around. The reason? Jones was actually talking about Ingram, a mix of praise and affectionate ribbing, and the guys responded with good-natured laughter, and cheers. He's still a football player. He just has to have a different mind-set than most.
Last year his most difficult snap of the season was after a kickoff returned for a touchdown. Ingram had run down the sideline screaming, then had to have the precision of a surgeon on the extra-point snap. He knows now. There's a reason they don't want him thinking like a defensive lineman. He'll never let it happen again.
But there are a few stolen moments. He does get to live the dream. The punt snap; once he delivers it he's no longer a specialist. He's just a football player.
"I want to go whack somebody," he says. "That's like my favorite thing, getting to run down the field."