The other day when doing my pre-season evaluation of the Saints, I can remember chuckling to myself as I made some notes regarding one of the players that I believe can make an indelible impact on their upcoming 2013 season unlike any other: former Heisman Trophy winner and 2011 number one draft pick, Mark Ingram. What made me laugh was when I thought back to my years spent as an NFL fan when I was a kid in the late 1970’s and early ‘80’s, and recollecting the one former NFL and former college star that Ingram makes me think of unlike any other: Billy Sims. It’s not because their playing styles were similar in any way, but rather because they both seem to be sharing (so far) the same career path as professionals: former Heisman Trophy winners that are FAILING to live up to their potential.
XHarahan WhoDat, AKA Barry, Staff Saints Writer
It would certainly be unfair of me to say that former 1978 Heisman Trophy winner and Detroit Lions running back Billy Sims was not a “star”, but if you saw him play in college at the University of Oklahoma (which I did) you’d have sworn that he was going to be the next GREAT running back that the NFL had seen since Jim Brown. He was that good. As a kid, Sims was the first true “home-run hitter” at the RB position that I had seen: a player who could score from anywhere on the field, once the ball was in his hands. Yet, that ability never seemed to translate into his professional career, as he and the Lions managed only 2 playoff appearances in his brief NFL career. The number one overall pick of the 1980 NFL Draft, Sims’ NFL career was OVER just 4 years later; when a catastrophic knee injury in a game against the Minnesota Vikings brought his playing days to a rather unfortunate end.
Heaven forbid should such a fate ever fall upon Ingram in any way. But personally I just can’t seem to shake the notion that Ingram is headed on the same path as Sims (call it the “Billy Sims Fate”, if you will): that somehow, Ingram will be yet another Heisman Trophy winner who was destined to be an NFL star, that just never gets the chance to fully blossom and fulfill his football destiny. Certainly I won’t dare say that Ingram is anywhere near the overall quality of player that Sims was during his career. However, Ingram’s impact could be just as equally important in this day and age of the league’s “running back by committee” approach that most teams (especially the Saints) have mastered in recent years.
Now it’s just possible that Ingram could actually contribute more while doing less statistically, considering his role in the Saints’ prolific pass-first offense. But yet, his role is critical to the Saints success in my personal opinion. This needs to be Ingram’s “break-out” season, statistically or not — as the Saints seek to garner the contributions from Ingram that he was chosen for originally, when the organization traded up to the 28th overall selection (with the New England Patriots) in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Saints fans have had visions of 1,500 yard seasons in their pretty little heads since the day of that selection, but that has never materialized. It should be noted that it’s not due to a lack of effort on Ingram’s part; but rather it’s a direct result of how the Saints have chosen to utilize him in their offense.
So might we see a slight change in philosophy in 2013? That will all depend a lot on Ingram, and if he appears to have finally made the long-awaited transition that some RB’s honestly have seemed to have undertaken much sooner than he has managed to. One thing that is for certain is that it’s not from a lack of effort on his part in any way. With Saints head coach Sean Payton returning to the fold with a renewed sense of vigor and passion, this could be the season where we’ll see Ingram assume a major role within the Saints’ attack. If that’s the case, then Ingram will at long last be living up to his overwhelming potential — and possibly may fulfill his destiny while he’s at it……
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