Cornelius Ingram Audio Story (click to listen)
Cornelius Ingram was always a small town guy, with really big dreams.
Growing up in the rural town of Hawthorne, Florida opened Ingram’s eyes to the things that truly mattered to him: his family, faith, and football. These three things helped Ingram realize at a young age that he was blessed with phenomenal talent to play sports, especially football, and he was determined to pursue his passion and lifelong dream.
One of the most highly sought after high school prospects to come out of Hawthorne High School and recruited by nearly every major conference in the country for both football and basketball, Ingram made the decision to attend the University of Florida in 2004 and begin his career with the Florida Gators.
“At that time Florida was one of the top schools in both sports, and was willing to give me the opportunity to play both football and basketball,” Ingram said. “I was a hometown kid, so when I made my decision to go there I just knew it was the perfect fit for me. Becoming a Gator was one of the best experiences I’ve had my whole life.”
Ingram made his debut his freshman year in 2004 playing quarterback for the Gators, but Gators head coach Urban Meyer felt that Chris Leak was a better fit for the position and convinced Ingram that he could play tight end and play the position well. So in 2005, Ingram listened to Meyer’s advice, and embraced the position.
Along with the “dream team” of Percy Harvin, Tim Tebow, and Leak, Ingram helped lead the Gators to a national championship in 2006 under Urban Meyer, defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 41-14 in the BCS National Championship game on January 8, 2007.
Ingram’s senior year in 2008 was going to be even bigger for the once quarterback turned tight end. Urban Meyer had plans for an incredible tight end scheme in his offense with Ingram and Aaron Hernandez. However, Ingram was forced to redshirt his senior year after suffering a torn ACL in fall camp during the very first week of practice.
During his collegiate career, Ingram racked up 888 yards receiving on 64 catches and eight touchdowns and the Gators capped off their 2008 season winning another national championship defeating the Oklahoma Sooners 24-14. Ingram says that although he could not play he was cheering on fellow teammates Tebow and Harvin, every step of the way.
Following his senior year, in April of 2009, Ingram was drafted in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL Draft and signed a four year $1.9 million dollar contract.
“It was a huge moment for me especially coming from my small town where it had never been done,” Ingram said. “It was definitely one of the greatest moments of my life not just for me, but everyone in the area, and in Hawthorne.”
Ingram credits his parents and family for being a big part of his development and success, as well as his older brother, Greg Bowie, Hawthorne’s boys basketball team head coach and football team’s offensive coordinator.
“I’ve been blessed my entire life- no doubt about it,” Ingram said. “Both of my parents are ministers. I grew up in a structured home with a Christian background, it really just guided me.” I’ve had a strong family background and a great team support through everything.”
But, Ingram’s NFL career has been a challenge. Ingram suffered a second ACL injury in less than a year during Eagle’s training camp before he took his first pro snap. It was the same injury that kept Ingram from playing his senior year at Florida. He was placed on injured reserve on September 1, 2009 and was waived from the Eagles during final cuts on September 4, 2010.
“The injury bug has had a little effect on me but it happens to everyone, it’s a part of the game, but no matter what, I always stay positive,” Ingram said. “I know that at the end of the day, whatever you want to do in life you can do it. It all comes down to how bad you want it, and if you want it bad enough, you’ll go get it.”
Ingram later joined the Detroit Lions and then the Denver Broncos after his time with the Eagles, but injuries once again plagued his chance for success.
In September of 2011, the Detroit Lions signed Ingram to their practice squad. He was placed on the practice squad/injured list on September 13th and released with an injury settlement on September 28th. The Denver Broncos signed Ingram to their practice squad on December 27, 2011, but he didn’t make the final 53 man roster and was released by the Broncos in September of 2012.
Ingram is a free agent but hopes to return to the NFL.
“I want to play in the NFL again,” Ingram said. “I have so much talent and so much to give, even right now. But if not, what I’m able to do with helping kids and getting my message out to youth about chasing their goals and dreams, it’s priceless to me.”
Ingram’s attitude and spirit are what drives him to make a hopeful comeback to the NFL.