There may be no other athletic director that shares the same perspective as UAB’s Mark Ingram. That’s because much of Ingram’s perspective from his college years was seen upside down while peering between his legs. Thanks to a life-changing high school football camp, the Lynchburg, Va. native gained the confidence to walk on as a long snapper at the University of Tennessee. A two-time Volunteer Award winner, Ingram has since embarked on a 20-year career in athletic administration, with stops at Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia and Temple. One month after being named UAB’s AD in May of 2015, Ingram helped the school reinstate its football team, which will return to the gridiron in 2017. In this exclusive interview with FootballMatters.org, Ingram details his football mentors, his walk on dreams and how being a long snapper compares to being an AD.
Football Matters: How did you get introduced to the sport of football?
Mark Ingram: I started when I was 12. I had a friend who convinced me and my dad that I should play. For whatever reason, I naturally took to the game. I understood it pretty quick and was good at it, good enough to start on our youth team. To be on the team and to play was a positive. I had success early and that’s why I enjoyed it.
FM: Who were some of your mentors growing up playing football?
MI: I had an awesome group of coaches. There were three guys in particular who were just great men: my youth coach Marshall Schmidt, my high school head coach Kenny Higgins and my high school offensive line coach Max Lowe. They taught me the game and they taught me about life.
FM: You elected to walk on to Tennessee as a long snapper. How did that happen?
MI: When I was a high school junior I was at a kicking camp run by Redskins kicker Mark Moseley and Packers punter Bill Renner. They approached me and said, ‘You’re really good at long snapping. You could walk on to any school in the country.’ I had really never considered playing in college to that point, but I gained so much confidence and decided to go for it. I have never reconnected with Mark Moseley or Bill Renner, but I sure would love to because they changed my life. I met my wife in college and we’ve been married 19 years and have four kids. Three of my five years I played with Peyton Manning, he’s pretty good. It was like out of a movie.
FM: Why did you choose athletic administration as a career path?
MI: I thought I wanted to coach. I loved the on-field coaching and I loved the recruiting. But I absolutely hated the meeting rooms and just sitting in a dark room and just watching the films over and over and over again. It hit me real quick that I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life. I had an opportunity to work in various roles in operations, marketing and development and I sort of carved my own niche from there.
FM: How did playing football prepare you for a life in athletic administration?
MI: I think football is the ultimate team game. I say that because it takes so many players working together. Everybody does a different task, but that’s what I think is so great about football. I think especially being a long snapper helped. It’s not a flashy job; you really don’t want anybody to know who you are. If they do it’s probably because you messed up. You’d like to go through your career and for nobody to know who you are. In my role as AD, we’re trying to promote our coaches and student-athletes. I’m not trying to promote myself. I want our fan base to adore our coaches. I’m a behind the scenes guy. I don’t need everybody throwing flowers at my feet.
FM: What vision do you have for football at UAB?
MI: You’re trying to be the best you can be. We want to be our city’s pro team. We want to be an entertainment source for the city of Birmingham to help make Birmingham better.
FM: Overall, what impact has football played in your life?
MI: Being a student-athlete had a great influence on me in my work. I had a tremendous experience. College athletics provides a lot of people an opportunity to have an education and make more out of their life than they would have otherwise had. That’s why I got into it. I saw it firsthand with a couple of people I was close to, and I appreciated that.