If Keaontay Ingram had his druthers, he might have slipped right out of his Carthage track uniform after his final event at the UIL state track meet Saturday, crossed Robert Dedman Drive and walked into Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center. After all, Royal-Memorial Stadium is just a javelin throw away from Mike Myers Stadium.
He’ll arrive there soon enough as he figures to enroll in summer school later this month.
“I’ll be honest,” Ingram said, almost seeming relieved his track career came to an end on this steamy, overcast Saturday. “I don’t like track.”
But he does like football. A lot.
And that’s good because Texas football coaches like what they have in him and have a spot vacant for him. Or Cal transfer Tre Watson. Or any number of candidates such as current players Daniel Young, Toneil Carter, Kyle Porter and Kirk Johnson.
With in-state stars such as J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State), Ronald Jones II (USC) and Samaje Perine (OU) escaping the Lone Star State, it’s overdue for a homegrown running back to cast his own shadow in Austin. In the same week Ricky Williams was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame, it’s time for Texas to find or develop another back who could help it even play in that bowl game.
Ingram has the credentials to battle for a starting position from the get-go. And the disposition because he set a goal of starting as a freshman, though he said: “I’m going to let other people discuss that. If it’s not my turn, it’s not my turn.”
He starred for the back-to-back Class 4A state champion Carthage Bulldogs and ran wild over the competition to the tune of 6,000 yards and 83 touchdowns as a three-year starter.
Count Silsbee’s Kalon Barnes among Ingram’s admirers.
After Ingram had finished a last-place ninth in the triple jump just moments after he ran an impressive third leg on Carthage’s third-place 400-meter relay team — “I’m disappointed,” he said. “I’m not making any excuses” — he stopped in mid-interview. He wanted to watch Barnes smoke his competition in the 4A 100-meter dash with an eye-popping, wind-aided time of 10.04 seconds.
The two tangled frequently on the football field, and Ingram usually got the better of him. The Bulldogs roasted Silsbee “60-something to something,” Ingram said with a shrug, but Barnes reminded that he scored four touchdowns as a wide receiver in that game last fall when he wasn’t trying to tackle Ingram.
“He’s good,” Barnes said. “We had a hard time getting him down.”
“Ooooooh,” sighed Barnes, who will continue their personal rivalry when he goes to Baylor and says he will play both wide receiver and cornerback. “Once he gets loose, he gets loose. He’s fast.”
“It takes time, it takes progress….You can’t be scared to compete this is college football.” pic.twitter.com/UuB8nvvXet
— Jeff Barker (@JeffBarker_) May 12, 2018
Ingram showed that in the 4A state championship at AT&T Stadium, shaking loose for 163 yards and three touchdowns on just 15 carries. The Longhorns could use a running back to average 10.9 yards an attempt as he did that day.
Tom Herman would more than settle for that type of production a year after his quarterback was the Longhorns’ leading rusher. It wouldn’t take much to better last year’s rushing attack because Sam Ehlinger topped all runners with 381 net yards. No true running back gained more than Young’s 373 yards.
So will a quarterback be the Longhorns’ top threat on the ground in 2018?
“Hopefully not,” Ingram said. “You can’t win too many games like that.”
And Texas didn’t. It’s pushing for more than seven wins after a 7-6 year, and a stouter, more explosive ground game behind a deeper offensive line would go a long way toward that. This was a Texas team that produced just 9 yards on the ground in a loss to TCU and was held below 69 yards by both Southern Cal and Oklahoma State.
Ingram, who also played basketball for a Carthage team that reached the regionals, sports a strong upper torso and Ricky Williams-like dreadlocks. And this 6-foot, 197-pound youngster says he can play a physical style.
“I feel like I can run between the tackles and in open space,” he said. “But I need to work on things. I did play basketball, too, and if I didn’t foul out, I always had four fouls.”
Ingram looks the part, filling out his white Carthage jersey with the Cincinnati Reds-style C emblazoned on the front. He’s a grounded kid whose mother is a basketball and track coach for the East Texas school.
“He’s a beast,” said Carthage grad Dominique Jackson, a freelance reporter, “but he’s humble and very respectful.”
Ingram likes the direction the Texas program is headed and can’t wait to get on the field.
“I’ve got to learn the playbook, come in and compete,” he said. “I have to establish myself. I lost about 7 or 8 pounds this spring, so I need to come stronger because I have to be able to take some hits.”
And perhaps deliver some as well.