Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS ― Mark Ingram might not have been the Saints’ first first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft.
That distinction goes to Cameron Jordan.
But Ingram, the Heisman Trophy-winning former Alabama running back, is definitely the most in demand first-round pick for the Saints.
Wave after wave of Saints’ fans come at Ingram, asking him to sign computer print outs and take pictures.
The requests have been normal – a picture with Ingram and the fan in it. They’ve also been abnormal – a picture with Ingram, dressed in a gray suit, holding a yellow squawking chicken.
But it was one of his “only in New Orleans” welcome moments following the draft that he’ll likely always remember.
“I got one of those big king cakes and I ate a piece of the cake and there was a baby in it,” Ingram said, laughing while recounting the story. “I’m like, ‘What’s this? Is this cake cursed or something?’ I guess I have to go buy the next king cake now, but I was tripping at first.”
Indeed, the king cake was not cursed and ever since, Ingram has thoroughly enjoyed his reception in New Orleans in the nearly two months since the Saints drafted him.
“I think it was the perfect place for me to come after playing at Alabama,” Ingram said Wednesday. “Their fans were top notch and I think the best. For me to come to New Orleans where they love football … their fans are great, too. They’ve shown me so much love since I’ve been in the city.”
There’s only one catch right now in Ingram’s ability to pay back the city for the love it has shown him – the NFL is in a now nearly fourth-month lockout.
That means Ingram can’t learn from the coaches, he can’t be in the Saints’ Airline Drive weight room and he can’t spend breaking down film with team staff.
Luckily for him he just happened to be drafted by one of the few teams fully prepared to take the lockout in stride thanks to quarterback Drew Brees.
“I’m still training all the time,” Ingram said. “It’s just the fact where I can’t be with my teammates or be learning from the coaches. But Drew and the older guys have done a great job of getting the guys together so we can get out there and be familiar with each other and train together.”
Ingram, who spent part of his time working out with the Saints and part of his time at Sonic Boom training, will continue working out despite the Brees workouts having ended.
And during the annual Essence Festival, Ingram is hosting an introduction celebration, one that will help support his Mark Ingram Foundation, a charity set up to help with the “growth and well-being of children with incarcerated parents.”
Ingram’s father, a former NFL standout wide receiver, has been in prison on a 92-month sentence for money laundering and bank fraud.
Proceeds from the celebration will go to help the foundation, said Ingram’s publicist Krystal Meredith-Justice.