The NFL Pro Bowl isn’t known for its ferocious pass rush or for dirtying the jerseys of quarterbacks. But former South Carolina Gamecocks star defensive standout Melvin Ingram accomplished both Sunday – in the nicest way possible.
Ingram, who was a late addition to the AFC roster, made the most of his first appearance in the NFL’s annual all-star game, which the AFC rallied to to win 24-23. Ingram, who replaced injured Los Angeles Chargers teammate Joey Bosa, recorded a sack of Drew Brees.
There was no need to test Brees for a concussion after Ingram sacked him, on what was likely the softest hit the New Orleans Saints quarterback absorbed this season. That didn’t prevent Ingram from wrapping up the NFC signal caller on a 13-yard loss that could be considered a coverage sack.
When asked about the play after the game, a beaming Ingram said “Just rushing, just rushing. Get the sack.”
At the start of the play, Ingram made a hard rush up the middle, but soon slowed to maintain gap responsibility in the game that limits how many defenders can pressure the quarterback, not to mention the unspoken rules for players to enjoy themselves and do their best to avoid injuries – for all parties involved.
But Brees couldn’t find an open receiver and spun to his left as his offensive line was being pushed into the pocket. That left Ingram with a wide-open shot on Brees.
Although the former USC star recorded the sack, his play would have been just as acceptable in two-hand touch. Ingram more or less ushered Brees to the ground, sacking the former Super Bowl MVP as gently as possible in a game with pads.
It was the first sack in Sunday’s game, just one of three recorded in the Pro Bowl. Ingram had one of the four quarterback hits recorded in the contest, finishing with four tackles, including one for loss.
Ingram and his AFC teammates were enthusiastic after the game, since the winning team receives a larger paycheck.
“It was good, we had a blast and we got the victory, so you know what means,” Ingram told a reported before pausing to ‘take a phone call’ from the money. “It’s a blessing just to be here and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
Ingram was among the AFC leaders with 10.5 sacks this season, a number that matched his single-season best.
Ingram also recorded 56 tackles, including 17 for loss, this season for the Chargers.
Ingram even scored a touchdown this season, the first of his NFL career. In a blowout of the Buffalo Bills, Bosa forced a fumble and Ingram scooped up the loose ball and raced 39 yards to the end zone.
During his senior season at USC, Ingram scored three touchdowns. Two of his touchdowns came against Georgia in a 45-42 victory, including a 68-yard fake-punt for a touchdown.
Ingram played for the Gamecocks from 2008-11, switching from linebacker to defensive end. As a junior, he led USC with nine sacks. As a senior, Ingram had 10 sacks, 15 tackles for loss and two interceptions, leading him to be named a college football All-American and first team All-SEC.
Ingram’s inclusion in the Pro Bowl meant that a former Gamecocks defensive lineman was on the roster. Ingram’s teammate at South Carolina Jadeveon Clowney had been named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, but like Bosa, was forced to miss the game as he recovers from an injury. The Houston Texans defensive end/linebacker had “minor arthroscopic knee surgery.”
Ingram wasn’t the only USC alum playing professionally in L.A. in the Pro Bowl. Another Gamecock product, Pharoh Cooper was selected to play in the all-star game. Cooper was the kick returner for the Los Angeles Rams, but didn’t record any stats.
Another of Ingram’s college teammates hyped up his Pro Bowl appearance this week.
D.J. Swearinger, who is coming off the best professional season of his career after playing safety for the Washington Redskins said Ingram has the strongest arm in the NFL.
When appearing on an NFL Network program, Swearinger claimed Ingram could throw a football “100 yards.”