Football

Our 8th annual Signing Day Q&A: Carthage's Keaontay Ingram sees brighter days ahead

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Posted February 5th, 2018

CARTHAGE — Keaontay Ingram’s hometown is quintessential Texas.

The main road through Carthage takes you past the high school, the police station and straight to the town square. The locals used to have a movie theater that operated on the weekends. It’s been converted into a church. All that matters here is family, oil field work and football because, frankly, there’s not much else.

And that’s OK with Keaontay Ingram.

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“All they talk about in the barbershop is football,” Ingram said. “All these old-timers talking about how they used to be back in the day. You know how that stuff goes. But I feel it absolutely means a lot.”

Ingram, 18, was born in Marshall but has lived in Carthage his whole life. He has carried this town’s state championships hopes and dreams for the past three years. The running back who will sign with Texas on Wednesday has led Carthage to back-to-back Class 4A Division I state titles, the school’s fifth and sixth crowns in the last 10 years. At the last celebration in December, Bulldogs coach Scott Surratt said, “Welcome to Title Town.”

Texas commit Keaontay Ingram is the highest-rated running back in Texas. (Mike Craven)

Now, Ingram is ready for a new uniform, a new home, a new purpose. The state’s No. 1 running back prospect — and sixth in the country, per 247Sports’ composite rankings — could have signed with Texas in December during the early signing period. But he chose to wait until the traditional signing date in February so he could sign with his friends.

RELATED: Texas commits Keaontay Ingram, Keondre Coburn talk status

Opposing coaches saw an opening. Jimbo Fisher wanted Ingram at Florida State and then tried to lure him to Texas A&M. Ingram even took an official visit to College Station. But Ingram will become a Longhorn, a key figure in what’s expected to be the nation’s third-best recruiting class.

“I’ve always told him that the world has more to offer than right here in Carthage,” said Ingram’s mother, Brandie. “You’ve got more things to see out there.”

Ingram’s one of those All-Everything players you’d expect Texas to sign. He owns the school record with 76 career touchdowns and is one of only three Carthage players ever to rush for more than 5,000 yards. The Bulldogs scored anywhere from 41-60 points in all but two games last season.

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Perhaps Ingram’s most impressive stat: Three, as in only three lost fumbles over the last two years. They all came in one game, according to Surratt. China Spring’s defense somehow knocked it loose three times in their 2016 state semifinals matchup.

“After his first fumble, I said if you fumble eight more times, I’m gonna beat you,” Surratt said, laughing now at the memory. “I told him, ‘You’re our guy. You’re the reason we’re here. Run us to the state championship.’”

That’s exactly what Ingram did. He finished with 168 yards on 26 carries and scored the game-winner, a 1-yard plunge in triple-overtime.

RELATED: Commitment 101: Keaontay Ingram, Carthage running back

RELATED: The Dotted Line: What is left for Texas in the 2018 recruiting class?

Midway through last season, Texas coach Tom Herman said his team lacked a game-changing running back. “Maybe he’s on this roster, maybe not,” he said. Daniel Young showed real promise in November, and perhaps Toneil Carter will have a bounce-back season in 2018.

Ingram doesn’t plan on wasting any time. He’ll enroll this summer and wants to start contributing this fall. When he returns home, he wants to go back to the barbershop as a Big 12 champion.

“I just think it would be best for him to get out of here for something different,” Brandie Ingram said. “Austin is a place of its own. I think it’s a planet of its own. Austin is weird.”

Ingram spoke at length with the American-Statesman for our eighth annual signing day Q&A, following Oklahoma City cornerback Josh Turner (2011), Brenham defensive tackle Malcom Brown (2012), Harker Heights guard Darius James (2013), Denton Guyer’s Jerrod Heard (2014), Euless Trinity offensive lineman Patrick Vahe (2015), Manvel’s Reggie Hemphill-Mapps (2016) and Fort Worth All-Saints defensive end Max Cummins (2017):

Did you feel pressured to sign in December?

It wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t nothing to be stressed out about. Yes, I did get pressured a little bit from the coaching staff, but I understand that from a recruiting standpoint. Family and friends, I don’t think there was any pressure on their part. It was a good problem to have at the end of the day, but it wasn’t anything to stress out about.

So you never wavered on Texas?

Naw. Not at all.

Why was it so important you signed with your friends?

Well, because it’s a one-time deal. We all want to celebrate it together. I don’t know. I might not get to see them again, especially some of the people I grew up with. From what I hear, college is nothing like the people you grew up with. I mean, you’re going to meet new friends in college, but it won’t be like the people you grew up with. We were thinking why not all sign together, make it one big special deal? That’s what we agreed upon, and that’s what we did.

As you began to think about colleges, how did you narrow it down? Why Texas?

At first, where I wanted to go, it didn’t matter just as long as I can get somewhere. I wanted to go somewhere to get an education. But I wasn’t really trying to focus on one school. The reason why I picked them is that it just felt like it was where I wanted to be. I’m not going to act like I’ve been anywhere and everywhere. But when I stepped on that campus, it felt like home. It felt like the spot I wanted to be, so I just stuck with it.

Someone of your stature has a lot of options. Did you hear other coaches out? How many visits did you take?

Well, I only took two — including one this past weekend. Texas A&M.

How was that?

It was cool.

How was A&M coach Jimbo Fisher?

Oh, he’s a real good dude. He knows what he’s talking about, and we talked football.

Did you get a good vibe from them? Was it different from when coach Kevin Sumlin was there?

Oh, totally different. Different coaches are bringing a new demeanor. They’re going to change up the offense. It’s way different from when I went there on my junior day going into my senior season.

Was the Texas coaching staff nervous?

Nah, we had an understanding. I’m going to let somebody know what’s going on. I’m not the type of person that will let people have their head spinning.

So I’m sure you watched this season. Texas had issues at running back. What are you thinking about the Longhorns as you watch the season unfold?

The situation is what it is. I feel like each one of us has our own demeanor and what we bring to the game. Hopefully in the next few years, it will be all straightened out. It was just the first season. It’s not going to be fixed all in one blue moon. It’s a process, and hopefully it will be where it needs to be in the next couple of years.

I did see one article that you were impressed by the Texas-USC game. What did you see during that game?

You haven’t seen Texas play like that in a long time. With what they bring on the defensive side, I feel like if the offense is clicking, I feel like it would have been a different outcome. So to get an opportunity to fix that and be a part of soothing like that speaks volumes.

Is it resonating with you how good this recruiting class could be?

Oh, yes sir. From all the coaches I’ve talked to, the best football is played in Texas. They didn’t have too many players going to Texas. But we all see what the situation is, and you can tell that we’re all on the same page. If not, we’d all be somewhere else. Hopefully we can get something clicking.

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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