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Alabama in the Pros

Former Tide safety speaks on Saints’ RB Mark Ingram growth as person and player

Mark Ingram at the 2017 National Championship Game for Alabama
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

While he’s currently enjoying life as a family man, Roman Harper was quite the defensive player during his tenure at the University of Alabama and National Football League. The former Crimson Tide safety was a catalyst behind the program’s 10-2 year in 2005, while helping the New Orleans Saints capture its first Super Bowl championship – Super Bowl 44 – in 2009.

He may be putting the finishing touches on his home in Charlotte, N.C., but there is always time to talk football with Harper. Before the Tide took the field for A-Day last week, he caught up with yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine to discuss one of his former teammates, running back Mark Ingram.

After staving off injuries in his first six seasons, Ingram produced his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign in 2016. The ex-Tide ball carrier and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner accounted for 1,043 yards and six touchdowns on 205 carries. He’s turned in two seasons in which he’s totaled 1,000 yards from scrimmage (2014, 2015) and earned a trip to his first NFL Pro Bowl in 2014.

Mark Ingram || "Right Above It" || 2016 Highlights HD (BIRTHDAY SPECIAL)

New Orleans has cut ties with multiple players, including Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas and Brandin Cooks to make Ingram a primary focus; however, the franchise signed former Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson this week to join its backfield.

Although he’s stated that he is fine with sharing the load with Peterson, Harper said he still expects great things from Ingram as he enters his seventh NFL season with the Saints.

“Mark’s been sharing the load since his days at Alabama,” Harper said. “He’s coming into his own and I still look for him for have success. The biggest thing is that he wants to be great.”

Keeping a healthy amount of weight was part of the reason as to why Ingram was hurt a lot in his first few years in the league. He encountered problems with his hands, toes, ankles and shoulders among others things, nevertheless, he’s back and ready to have a productive year.

“He’s dropped some weight now,” Harper said. “Mark’s down to between 215 and 218 pounds, which makes him quicker, shifter and a lot better. He took one carry 80 yards for a touchdown last season, and you don’t see too many back nowadays that are capable of doing that.

Regardless of his solid career numbers – 953 carries, 4,328 yards, 32 touchdowns – the one thing Harper is proud of when it comes to Ingram is seeing the 27-year-old be confident in who he is.

“Mark has really grown in faith in God,” Harper said. “It’s really helped him as a man, and when you know who you are and who’s you are in God, then it doesn’t matter what others think.”

As for predictions regarding next season, Harper has one in mind for Ingram.

“It’s tough to rush for 1,000 yards in New Orleans’ offense, but I do expect to see him total between 1,300 and 1,400 yards from scrimmage,” Harper said. “One good thing about Mark is that he catches the ball really well and is quick in his pursuit down the field.”

Stephen M. Smith is a managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 15 years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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