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July 15, 2012TUSCALOOSA | Mark Ingram is excited for a lot of things these days.
His health, for one.
His newly-signed quarterback, for another.
But this weekend, the former University of Alabama running back drew his enjoyment from dozens of children who convened at Tuscaloosa County High for the inaugural Mark Ingram Football ProCamp. The former Heisman Trophy winner, now entering his second season with the New Orleans Saints, said his injury-marred rookie season in the NFL is behind him. A turf toe injury, the same injury which hampered UA running back Eddie Lacy last year, put the Saints' 2011 first-round draft pick on the sidelines.
"I had a couple of offseason surgeries, but I'm 100 percent and training hard. I'm ready to go for training camp and I'm excited about the year," Ingram said.
Former UA offensive line coach Joe Pendry, on hand at the camp, spoke with Ingram for a few minutes.
"He looks good, he really does. And he's got that smile on his face, anyway. He looks good physically," Pendry said.
"That was a pleasant surprise. I didn't know he was coming out here," Ingram said of Pendry. "Just to see him out here put a smile on my face. I learned a lot from him my three years at Bama. He was hard on me my freshman year. I learned so much from him as a player, how to be a better player and person."
The two-day camp drew roughly 300 campers to Tuscaloosa County High's football facility, where camp counselors put them through drills on fundamentals. DCH Sports Medicine was also on hand to speak to parents about safety in the sport.
"They're just having fun out there. It's football in its purest form. They're playing because they love to play," Ingram said. "That was me one day. I had hopes and dreams of playing varsity football, big-time college football and hopefully one day becoming a pro. That's them out there right now. You have to let them know that whatever they want to do, if they put their mind to it, they can be successful if they work hard for it."
Pendry said Ingram's efforts with the camp are exactly what he likes to see among former UA players in the NFL.
"By this turnout, he's created a lot of interest. These coaches are working them and these young kids are learning something," Pendry said. "He's not the only one of our players who have left here doing that. Trent has a camp like this up in Cleveland. But Mark is definitely doing it the right way."
Ingram also commented on the signing of Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who agreed to a five-year, $100 million deal with the club as training camp approaches.
"It was coming closer and closer to training camp and we didn't have a deal done for our quarterback, so I was getting a little worried, but I was so excited to see them finally get the deal done. Both sides came together and he's very deserving of it - great quarterback, great leader, and we're excited to have him back," Ingram said. "It's football, but there is also a business side of it, and his contract was up. It was time for him to get a contract done. Every player understands that, every coach understands that. It's part of the business we're in."
As for the suspensions the Saints incurred from the NFL for having a bounty program among the team's defensive players, Ingram said the team is ready to move forward.
"People can count us out if they want to. That's fine with us," Ingram said. "We know what type of character guys we have in the locker room, what type of coaches, what type of organization we have. They haven't put this team together, that won a Super Bowl, and built this team just to lay down."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.