I don't really know how to introduce this other than to say that the fine folks at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute hooked us up with a chance to interview Melvin Ingram. It was an honor to chat with perhaps the most accomplished and universally beloved one-year starter in Gamecock football history. We talked about his preparation for the NFL draft, the 2011 season, and why Everybody Loves Whammy.
Connor Tapp: So you’re at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Is that right?
Melvin Ingram: Yes sir.
CT: I don’t know a whole lot about the GSSI other than that I remember the old commercials with Derek Jeter and Peyton Manning hooked up to machines while they’re on the treadmill. Is that pretty much what they have you doing?
MI: Yes sir. (laughs)
CT: Have you learned anything about your body or the human body in general?
MI: Yes sir, I’ve learned a lot of valuable information about the human body as far as nutrition and carbohydrates and sodium and things that you need to put in your body to have a productive performance. So I learned a lot of stuff.
CT: So you think you’ll be able to use that to help you in the NFL combine later this month?
MI: Yes, sir.
CT: Our readers are very well acquainted with how versatile you are as a player, but one thing that I keep coming across in reading scouting reports on you is that everyone seems to be very impressed with the vast repertoire of moves that you have to get past offensive lineman in the pass rush. Would you agree with that assessment?
MI: Yes, sir. I just try to be a versatile player and have a whole repertoire of moves that I can do. So I would agree with that.
CT: Is that something that’s come naturally for you?
MI: It’s something I’ve had to work on. It comes naturally but to be the best at what you do, you’ve got to work. So I work day in and day out on it.
CT: Is developing a lot of different moves a point of emphasis with (Gamecock defensive line) Coach (Brad) Lawing?
A: Yes sir. Everything I know about the defensive line I learned from him. Whether it’s moves or getting off the ball fast and using my hands, he’s taught me a lot.
CT: What is the biggest thing you feel you need to work on between now and the combine?
MI: Just the whole aspect of my game. There’s nothing I could be too good at to where I could stop working on it and work on something else. I feel like I need to work on the whole aspect of my game.
CT: A lot of people are saying that with you being so versatile that you might be an ideal match for a team that runs a 3-4 defense. Now, I know that you moved around to a lot of different positions while you were at South Carolina, but it’s been a while since you’ve played a lot of linebacker. Is there anything that you’re doing or plan to do to prepare for the possibility that you might be playing some linebacker in the NFL?
MI: Yeah, I’m just going to work hard at everything that I could possibly play. Whether it’s defensive end, defensive tackle, or linebacker, I’m just going to work as hard as I can at whatever position they want me to play.
CT: Is there any particular role that you think you’re best suited for?
MI: No, I feel like I’m the best at any position. I feel like I could be a dominant football player at whatever position they put me at. So it’s not just like there’s one position that I feel like I’m better suited at.
CT: You've had something of a roller coaster career at South Carolina between your foot injury and the position changes. At what point during the season did you realize that not only could you play in the NFL but you could be a early first round draft pick?
MI: I wouldn’t say it was during the season. It was in the offseason. Me just working hard day in and day out. This has always been a dream of mine and I just decided that I was going to do whatever I had to do to accomplish it.
CT: What has it been like for you to go from a situation in the preseason where you were essentially fighting for a starting position to ending the season as just the second ever consensus All-American at South Carolina?
MI: It’s been an interesting ride. It’s just been me keeping focus with myself - me motivating myself, me telling myself to never quit – to just keep going no matter if it’s going good or going bad. Just working hard day in and day out.
CT: Everyone talks about the firsts that your graduating class was able to accomplish: most wins in a four year period, most SEC wins in a season, and a host of other things. And I saw a mock draft recently that had you, Alshon (Jeffery), and Stephon (Gilmore) all going in the first round. I did a little research and found out that, since the NFL Draft started in the 1930s on, only eight South Carolina Gamecocks have ever been taken in the first round. I was wondering – is that something that you, Stephon, and Alshon have talked about – the possibility of all three of you going in the first round? And how exciting would it be for you guys if that was something that worked out?
MI: No, that’s nothing we’ve talked about. We just try to go out and give it our best every day. But if that was to happen it would be a great experience. It would change our lives forever. It’s a dream just to play in the NFL.
CT: What was your favorite on-the-field moment from the 2011 season?
MI: When the clock hit zero zero in the Nebraska game and we knew that we were the winningest team in South Carolina history.
CT: Was there a particular play that you were involved in that sticks out as a favorite?
MI: Probably the fake punt against Georgia.
CT: Have you seen the image of the bulldog mascot putting his hands over his face?
MI: (Laughs) Yeah.
CT: That might be my favorite image from all of last season. Talking to other players at the Senior Bowl do you get the sense that there’s a different perception of the South Carolina football program than maybe there was when you signed your letter of intent in 2007?
MI: Oh, yes sir. We set out to set a statement this year. In the offseason our statement was to show everybody that we was the new Carolina. So when we broke it down in the offseason we used to say "New Carolina." We set out to show the world that we was the new Carolina, and I think we did a good job because we came out the winningest team in school history.
CT: The players on the team and the incoming recruits seem to have responded really positively to the promotion of Lorenzo Ward to defensive coordinator. What is it about him that everyone seems to love so much?
MI: Just his whole coaching style and the way he coaches. I felt like Coach Ward really related to us the most because he had been through we been through as far as being a high school athlete, progressing to a college athlete, and having dreams of being an NFL athlete. And I felt like he treated us like little brothers or even in a father-son role. He was like a mentor to us – just showing us the ins and the outs and the dos and the don’ts.
CT: Coach Ward has indicated in some interviews that he plans to maybe be a little bit more aggressive than Ellis Johnson in terms blitzing and pressuring the quarterback. Did that come through at all in preparation for the Capital One Bowl or did he pretty much keep everything the same?
MI: Yes sir, it came through. I felt like he had the mentality of zone pressure more. He had the mentality of wanting to get after the quarterback more. When you get at the quarterback more, that makes the quarterback throw the bad passes or you even get sacks. And that’ll pick up the whole defensive style.
CT: Is it a lot more exciting as a player to be in a scheme where you’re being more aggressive?
MI: Yes sir.
CT: Melvin, since it is National Signing Day, we know that there’s a huge physical jump in going from high school ball the SEC, but what are some of the mental adjustments that kids have to make coming from high school?
MI: You’ve got to mature a lot quicker. You’ve got to come ready to work. You can’t come in thinking that it’s like high school where you was the starter and that everything will be given to you. You have to work for everything you get at the D-I college level. So I would just tell them to come in working hard and hit the ground running.
CT: One final question I want to ask you, Melvin: Five Points or the Vista?
MI: The Vista.
CT: Any particular favorites?
MI: I like to go to Wild Wing.
CT: Awesome. Well thanks for your time, Melvin. And best of luck to you in the combine and in the draft.
MI: Alright, thanks.