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Graduating to the NFL


Clint Ingram was in a bind. His dream of being drafted by an NFL team had been fulfilled when the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted him in the third round on April 29, but there was something more pressing on the horizon. With the Jaguars opening mini-camp last Friday, Ingram also had an important obligation on his schedule for the same day: His college graduation.

The date of the graduation had been on his schedule for months and he was waiting to find out his new NFL home. He knew the possibility of a conflict existed. When it was decision time, he thought it would be best to head to Jacksonville.

"I told everybody in my family that I wasn't going to walk and I was coming down here (Jacksonville)," Ingram said. "My mom said, 'You're not going to walk?' I just told her that I didn't know. If I can't because I have a job now, then I have to do it. I just knew I had to do whatever I had to do."

His decision was made easier with a phone call to Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio.

I asked Coach (Del Rio) if it would be okay for me to walk," Ingram said. "Coach Del Rio was real considerate about the whole situation. He congratulated me and told me to take care of everything down there. He just told me to get down here when I can and we would have plenty of time to get me caught up."

Ingram's parents had preached since he arrived at Oklahoma in 2001 to remember that football came second to an education. He fulfilled their wishes with a degree in sociology-criminology.

"My mom and dad have been telling me that for a while," Ingram said. "Football is one thing, but they wanted to make sure I had my education. That is what I went to college for. I was on a football scholarship and it was an opportunity for me to get my education. My family always tells me that you can always hurt your legs or your arms."

Ingram, dressed in cap and gown, attended the graduation on Friday evening. The keynote speaker was television personality Katie Couric. After initially being hesitant, Ingram gave Couric rave reviews.

"She was a real good speaker," Ingram said. "At first, I thought it's going to be another long speaker at graduation. I didn't know who she was. We had already gone through this long, stressful time leading up to it. She started out with a bunch of jokes and got everyone's attention."

Ingram didn't arrive home until 11 p.m. following graduation and had stay up all night getting ready for his early morning flight to Jacksonville on Saturday. He was going to miss the Saturday morning practice, but would be in time for the afternoon session.

He packed all his clothes and left everything else behind. He figured out a way to check three bags on the plane and carry on two. He was saying goodbye to his college home as he is planning on staying in Jacksonville until offseason workouts end on July 14.

"I left everything," Ingram said. "Everything I own I have down here in Jacksonville with me. I told my friends that they could go in my room and anything you want or see, you can have it."

Ingram didn't take the field for the first time until Saturday afternoon. As expected, it was a little overwhelming at times.

"I really didn't know anything," Ingram said. "I know coverages. I know quarters, cover-two and cover-three. I got out there and Coach (Mark Duffner) threw me in there and walked me through what my landmark was, what my responsibilities were. I was basically out there running around like a chicken with my head cut off."

Ingram, the fourth-highest linebacker drafted by the Jaguars, is the first Oklahoma player ever drafted by the team. He started 22 of 46 games and was named All-Big Twelve Conference second-team as a senior.

The Jaguars lost last year's starting linebacker, Akin Ayodele, in free agency to Dallas so a position is open. Ingram wants to spend the next few months getting acclimated to the system and letting everything else play out.

"That is out of my hands," Ingram said. "I am just going to go out there and give it everything I've got. Go one hundred miles an hour and do whatever I can to put myself in the position to play. If it was my decision, it would be different. But it isn't my decision. It's coaches' decision. They have been doing this longer than I have been born so they know what they're doing. They know who they want out there and how they want it done. I'm just going to give it all I got."

For the next few months, Ingram will participate in the OTAs with the rest of team and get himself ready for training camp.

"I want to try to get the playbook all the way down," Ingram said. "I want to study and know all the terminology, all the schemes, what the defensive tackles have to do, what the ends have to do, what everybody on the field is doing on every play. If I can get in it for a couple of hours every day then I will be good."

While he is now settled in a local Jacksonville hotel, Ingram looks back at the experience and really appreciates Del Rio's consideration.

"I knew that I would be behind when I came in," Ingram said. "When I got here, I told Coach (Del Rio) how happy I was he had let me go and graduate. He told me that was a big deal. For Coach to understand that and not be mad means a lot. He could have been mad and said I had a job now. I can't say enough about how much I appreciate him letting me do that."

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