When former South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Melvin Ingram was selected as the San Diego Chargers first round draft pick in April, he became only the ninth Gamecock ever to play for the Chargers and the first drafted player since Fred Bennett in 2007. Like any modern day football player, the now 23-year-old, jumped on Twitter to express his excitement.
And the feeling was mutual. San Diego Chargers General Manager AJ Smith called the new Charger a “mean, nasty man – extremely physical with a great motor.” Coach Norv Turner agreed, claiming Ingram was “going to be outstanding on third downs.”
“He’s an exceptional player who can do a lot of things,” Turner said. “I think he was the most complete linebacker in the draft.”
So what is the hype all about? Who is ‘Super Melvin’, the 6-foot-1, 264 pound linebacker who is admired as much for his strength as he is for his mix of speed and overall athleticism? After a successful career at Richmond Senior High School in North Carolina, where as a senior he recorded 87 tackles and 2.5 quarterback sacks, Ingram went on to become one of South Carolina’s best defensive players in recent history. In 2011 he registered 10 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and two interceptions. He backed this up scoring three touchdowns, including two in South Carolina’s 45-42 victory over Georgia. In doing so, Ingram was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row, was part of the AP & Coaches First-Team All-SEC and was named both AP First-Team All-American and Sporting News All-American Team.
Fast forward to the Chargers preseason, with Ingram having made appearances in San Diego’s first three games. In the opening clash against the Packers, he finished with two tackle assists and said after the game that he even impressed himself.
“This was my opportunity to play against higher caliber guys with more strength and speed,” he said. “I was happy with how it went, because it didn’t seem too difficult. I just know that I need to keep getting better in every aspect of the game. You can never be too good.” He added that he was particularly pleased with the pressure he was able to put on Packers QB, Aaron Rodgers.
“Words really can’t explain. When you work hard and put pressure on a quarterback, even though you don’t get the sack, you’re helping to force that turnover. It’s a defensive game of football, so it’s just an exciting feeling to have that opportunity to put that pressure to force that turnover.”
Veteran Charger Quentin Jammer was just as impressed, praising the rookie’s efforts. “In this game, you always need someone to get after the quarterback. I know that’s why we targeted him, but I think he’s been even better than what was expected.”
Ingram backed up his good opening performance with a strong showing in the game against the Cowboys before suffering a potentially dangerous leg injury in the third game against the Vikings. What was initially thought to be a knee injury was actually a bruised thigh.
While Ingram didn’t take the field in the final preseason game against the 49ers, Coach Turner fully expects his young star to be fit and healthy heading into the regular season opening round game against the Oakland Raiders. Only time will tell whether this self-proclaimed super hero can use his special powers to guide the Chargers to a strong defensive record in 2012.