In his debut as a Houston Texans, Mark Ingram II scored the team's first touchdown of the 2021 season in front of a home crowd at NRG Stadium. In the 37-21 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ingram carried the ball 27 times for 84-yards and the score.
Wearing a mic during the game, Head Coach David Culley comes over to Ingram sitting on the bench and reinforces what he means to his team.
"Your presence on this football team and what you mean is very important. It ain't just about yards. It's about having you here. You got me?
"Yes, sir," Ingram replied. "I love you, Coach."
After a rough 2020 season with injuries, COVID-19, and a gradually diminishing role with the Ravens, the veteran RB was back and looked as good as ever and happy to be playing for Culley again.
"He's always been the same guy to me," Ingram said. "He's always been consistent about who he is and what he stands for, and he's always been encouraging to me in Baltimore even in 2019 when I had my Pro Bowl year and in 2020 when it wasn't the best year, but he was always encouraging me and always giving me advice and positive words, and I appreciate him for that. He's always been a great coach that puts his players in a position, prepares his players to have success, and I know that he would love his players and do the same thing as a head coach."
The two were together in Baltimore for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, when Culley served as Assistant Head Coach/Passing Game Coordinator/ WR Coach under John Harbaugh. Culley remembers Ingram as one of the more vocal players in that locker room, who knew what it took to win but also had dealt with his share of adversity. Culley's vision for Ingram extends beyond his role in the ground game.
"He's one of those guys that you will never see down. He will never let anybody else get down," Culley said. "Basically, I am with him all the time telling him about continuing to do that. Like I said before when we first got him, I felt like he was a reflection of what I was all about as a coach and what I want out of our players. I am glad he is here."
Now in Year 11, Ingram's presence in the locker room is as big as his personality. Whether it's offensive players or defensive, rookies or veterans, he has quickly found a way to connect with each of them.
By just being himself.
"I think it's just being honest and being genuine and just being real," Ingram said. "Like when somebody's trying to put up a front or like forcing something like you can kind of tell like it's fabricated or if it's not real, it's not genuine. You can kind of feel it. So I just try to be genuine. Just try to be real, just to try to be myself. I'm a human being who, you know, I've had successes, I've had failures. I've been able to overcome adversity. I have a family that I love. You know what I mean? I want to be the best at what I do."
Ingram currently ranks first among active players in rushing yards with 7,408-yards through 133 games (88 starts) in his career. Ingram has also scored 63 rushing touchdowns and 10 receiving touchdowns in his career.
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Check out the best photos from the Houston Texans practice on Wednesday leading into Week 2.