OWINGS MILLS, Md. — For many Baltimore Ravens fans, running back Mark Ingram will forever be remembered for “Big Truss,” the mantra of the most successful regular-season campaign in franchise history.
To teammates and coaches, Ingram’s imprint on the franchise will go beyond two years and two words. Few players have been embraced so strongly in the locker room in such a short run in Baltimore.
Ingram, who was officially released by the Ravens on Tuesday, was a leader and mentor in addition to becoming the best hype man Lamar Jackson could’ve ever hoped for. Whether you were a young player or a veteran, Ingram reached out to offer advice on what it takes to play in the league and provide some words to boost confidence.
Within minutes of Ingram saying his goodbye to the Ravens on social media, 25 of his teammates affectionately replied to his post.
RB Mark Ingram says goodbye to the Ravenspic.twitter.com/3nXwdqJ— Mark Ingram (@markingram21) Jan. 19, 2021
“Family for life” — tight end Mark Andrews
“He lil' but that’s the Big Homie” — offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
“Learned a lot from you dawg!” — wide receiver Miles Boykin
“The realest” — quarterback Trace McSorley
“Appreciate you OG!” — linebacker Tyus Bowser
“Showed me the most love first day in” — linebacker Patrick Queen
The Ravens, who rarely comment publicly on moves, showed how much respect they have for Ingram by issuing a statement after his release.
“We are making the tough business decision to terminate Mark Ingram’s contract,” Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said. “Mark is a talented winner who brought passion, toughness, leadership and chemistry to the Ravens. He contributed in so many meaningful ways on and off the field, and we wish him the very best as he continues his career.”
With how popular Ingram became with the Ravens, it’s easy to forget he wasn’t the first choice by many fans a couple of years ago. The top free-agent running back in 2019 was Le’Veon Bell, who ended up costing more and producing less for the New York Jets.
Ingram’s arrival in Baltimore was overshadowed by the signing of safety Earl Thomas on the same day. But Thomas was dishonorably jettisoned after one year and Ingram will always be warmly welcomed at the Ravens facility.
In his first season with the Ravens, Ingram started with a 49-yard run in Miami and then famously started Jackson’s campaign for NFL MVP. After Baltimore’s 41-7 rout of Houston, Ingram went to the post-game podium and introduced Jackson as the “MVP front-runner,” saying, “If anybody got to say something different about that, then come see me. Big Truss.” In the games that followed, Ingram would stand on the bench next to Jackson and lead the stadium in chants of “MVP.”
Ingram’s leadership really shined when he was removed from the spotlight. A Pro Bowl player in 2019, he lost his starting job midway through the 2020 season and never said a negative word publicly. Even though he was no longer the star running back on the team, Ingram was there for his teammates when they hit tough times.
In December, wide receiver Dez Bryant contemplated not playing again when he tested positive for COVID-19 before his reunion game against the Dallas Cowboys. Why didn’t he? Bryant said one factor was a call he received from Ingram.
"He’s just a raw guy,” Bryant said. "The love he has for his teammates, that’s not a joke. That’s not an act -- that’s a real dude.”
As Ingram leaves, his energy and spirit will not soon be forgotten, especially by rookie J.K. Dobbins. Ingram went out of his way to help Dobbins, the player drafted to replace him. When Dobbins was breaking 20-yard runs and Ingram was a healthy scratch for games, Ingram texted Dobbins every day during the week.
“He is an unbelievable guy -- a big brother to me,” Dobbins said. "He’s still happy for me every day. He actually helped me with the process, teaching me things to do to help me be mentally prepared, to stay locked in. And he’s just an amazing guy.”