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Keaontay Ingram Values His Opportunity With Cardinals

Running back vying for playing time behind James Conner

Rookie running back Keaontay Ingram (30) takes part in a drill during a rookie minicamp practice.
Rookie running back Keaontay Ingram (30) takes part in a drill during a rookie minicamp practice.

One day before rookie minicamp officially began, Keaontay Ingram looked giddy at his introductory press conference, sporting a red polo with the team logo.

Ingram did not care about being a late draft pick; it did not embarrass or upset the 22-year-old. An NFL franchise believed in him enough to take a chance, and that's all that mattered.

Despite the grateful heart, Ingram was still bothered by something: The notion running backs no longer seem as important as they used to be.

"(That gives me) a big chip," Ingram said. "Especially growing up playing Pee Wee in the '05 days, when running back was a very valued position. I feel the disrespect over the years to see the devalue being a running back. I want to go out there and prove running backs can be a valuable piece in the offense and be the engine offensively that it needs to be."

Ingram shined his senior year for the Trojans, totaling more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 10 games after transferring from Texas. The Cardinals' top sixth-round draft pick, who signed his four-year contract with the team on Thursday, now has a terrific opportunity in the desert.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury said he was familiar with Ingram through connections.

"I knew about him when he started at Texas and then having the coaching relationship with the guys at USC," said Kingsbury, who was briefly the USC offensive coordinator before taking the job with the Cardinals. "He checked off all the boxes. The work ethic. The character. All those things. He can play in special teams. He's a big physical back. We just felt like he would fit what we do."

James Conner is the Cardinals' starter. Ingram models his game most after Adrian Peterson but said Conner is one of the running backs he frequently studies. Ingram has yet to meet Conner but looks forward to picking his brain.

With the departure of Chase Edmonds this offseason, Ingram will compete with Eno Benjamin, Jonathan Ward, and Jaylen Samuels for the sidekick backfield role.

"This type of opportunity doesn't come so often," Ingram said. "Just looking at the running backs taken in the draft, I don't think they have this opportunity. When I got this opportunity, I felt like God was like, 'Take advantage of it.' "

During the transition from college to the NFL, Ingram has picked up constant advice. The ones he hears most: Be consistent and attack the details. People also tell Ingram that everyone wants the same thing and puts in the same hours. But it's about who will be consistent the longest. And, of course, it helps to stay healthy.

As Ingram processes everything, he calls this new life a 'foreign language' for his family.

"It's overwhelming," Ingram said. "To see everything you worked for come true right before your eyes. "My family is excited and crying a bit. We're just embracing the moment."

Images from the second day of rookie minicamp.

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