BY JOHN DeSHAZIER
INGRAM AND KAMARA: A FORMIDABLE TANDEM
his relationship shouldn’t work or, at best, there’s reason that it wouldn’t be much more than a mutual, professional respect. For starters, one is married and a father, settled in as an eight-year veteran, the Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee for the New Orleans Saints, and is a player whose charitable work includes a Christmas shopping spree for children whose parents are incarcerated. The other is a second-year phenom to whom the phrase “free spirit” would apply only if you raised it to the 41st power. His hair is in locks, he wears a bullring in his nose (including during the game), he’ll sport a grill postgame, his red Christmas cleats look fashionable even though they don’t remotely blend with his
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team’s black and gold, and he’s got enough swag — and influence — to have enticed Airheads to make a signature flavor for him. Add in that their playing styles don’t really match. The former player runs with an intensity that borders on menacing. True, he has enough speed to pop outside, get from zero to 60 and take it 70 yards, and he often runs past defenders with ease. But he does real work inside the tackles better than most — he literally dragged a Tampa Bay defender to the end zone on a 17yard touchdown run, as the defender clutched a handful of jersey and skidded on his back for the final five or six yards. And that has been key to his having 50 rushing touchdowns, a Saints franchise record.
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The latter player glides. True, he’ll get between the tackles and display a toughness that either people failed to recognize or acknowledge, and many of his single-season record, 14 rushing touchdowns came on dirt-under-the-fingernails runs. But in open space, against a single defender (or sometimes two), is where you see the magic: The deceleration and acceleration, the deceptive quicks, the ability to get the inside shoulder in front of a would-be tackler to eliminate the angle and gain an extra two, five, eight yards, the willingness to hurdle another human body with an ease that’s breathtaking. Third, and perhaps most significant, they play the same position and compete for touches. And if ever there was an issue that could lead to one player side-eyeing another, that registers high on the list. This relationship shouldn’t work. But Mark Ingram II and Alvin Kamara love each other. Sure, you’ll hear the word “brotherhood” tossed about regarding the linking that occurs in a National Football League locker room, and “bonding” is another term of endearment. But Ingram and Kamara are different. They conduct postgame interviews together. One can finish the other’s sentence. When one succeeds, the other celebrates as if it’s his own accomplishment. When Ingram missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, no one greeted his return more gleefully than did Kamara. It looks like it shouldn’t work, but it does. “I think it’s just genuine,” said Ingram, who not only is the franchise all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, but also has 55 career touchdowns, tied with Deuce McAllister for second on the Saints’ all-time list, behind WR Marques Colston’s 72. “Since he came in, we have kind of a connection, just because he had gone to Alabama (Kamara redshirted at Alabama in 2013 before going to transferring to a junior college and going to Tennessee) and we knew some of the same people.” “That kind of brought us together right there. And just the fact [that] there was never any animosity, and there could have been. Going back when it was me, him and Adrian (Peterson, at the beginning of the 2017 season), there was never any animosity, never any jealousy or anything like that. I think everyone really helped each other out and just wanted to do what was best for the