NEW YORK | Mark Ingram completed the trophy case at Alabama, delivering the first Heisman to a school that boasts one of the richest histories in college football.
The tough-running sophomore tailback turned tearful after winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in the closest vote in the award’s 75-year history. Next, he’ll try to lead the most storied program in the South to a national championship.
Ingram finished 28 points ahead of Stanford running back Toby Gerhart.
Ingram wiped away tears and took a moment to steady himself before starting his speech. His voice wavered throughout.
“I’m a little overwhelmed right now,” he said. “I’m just so excited to bring Alabama their first Heisman winner.”
Ingram received 227 first-place votes and 1,304 points. Gerhart got 222 first-place votes and 1,276 points, while Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, last season’s runner-up, received 203 and 1,145.
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was fourth and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman two years ago, was fifth.
The previous closest vote in Heisman history came in 1985, when Auburn’s Bo Jackson beat Iowa quarterback Chuck Long by 45 points.
Ingram won four of the six regions. Gerhart took the far west and Suh won the southwest.
Ingram has been the backbone of Alabama’s offense all season, rushing for a school-record 1,542 yards, gaining 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 18 touchdowns.
And in his final chance to make a case for the Heisman, facing Florida’s then-top-ranked defense, Ingram ran for 113 yards and scored three touchdowns to punctuate his season.
The win sent the top-ranked Crimson Tide to the BCS national title game against McCoy and No. 2 Texas on Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl.
Ingram is the third consecutive sophomore to win the Heisman since Tebow became the first in 2007, and he will be the sixth winner in the last seven years to go on to play in the BCS national championship game.
Few college football teams can match Alabama’s history of success. The Crimson Tide dominated the SEC for decades. With six AP national championships, only Notre Dame and Oklahoma have won more.
But at Alabama, it’s a coach who has towered over the program more than any player.
Bear Bryant led some of college football’s greatest players - from Joe Namath to John Hannah, Ken Stabler to Ozzie Newsome - but never had a player even finish in the top three of the Heisman voting over his more than three decades at Alabama.
David Palmer, the shifty receiver and return man, was third in the Heisman voting in 1993, the best finish by a Crimson Tide player.
No major college program had won more games without a Heisman winner.
“Everybody that’s been in the Alabama family has been supporting me,” Ingram said. “Walking to class, students flashed me the Heisman pose.”
Now he can take his place among Alabama’s greats and the Paul W. Bryant Museum has a new piece of a hardware to display.
The announcement that Ingram had won came minutes before the Alabama men’s basketball team was set to host No. 5 Purdue, prompting an immediate roar from the mostly full Coleman Coliseum.
Even though the presentation wasn’t shown on the videoboard, fans instantly found out the news. The public-address announcer congratulated Ingram early in the game, bringing another big ovation. One young fan sat at courtside sporting a 22 jersey - Ingram’s number - with “Heisman” across the top.