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From Pop Warner to the NFL, Ingold stood out

By Greg Bates

SUAMICO – Having coached youth football for several years, there are certain kids Todd Andres remembers more than others.

He said one player in Duck Creek Pop Warner – which serves Howard and Suamico – stood out from day one.

Circa 2006, the player was returning a kick and the window was closing on the sideline.

Andres recalls yelling, “Get out of bounds!”

The player didn’t follow his coach’s orders.

“It’s almost halftime, and there was no way he was going to get through that slot,” Andres said. “His dad, who was the assistant coach, was yelling, ‘Go, go, go!’ Sure enough, he returned the kick for a touchdown. I remember that distinctly.”

That middle school player was Alec Ingold.

Now, almost a decade and a half later, the Suamico native is currently in his second year playing fullback with the Las Vegas Raiders in the National Football League.

The 2015 Bay Port High School graduate got his start in the area playing flag football and Pop Warner.

Ingold’s uncle, Kevin Rathburn, said Ingold’s talent was easy to recognize at a young age.

“At that time, physically, he was gifted,” said Rathburn, who coached Ingold in the Howard Suamico flag football recreational league from kindergarten to third grade. “He was more talented, and he developed physically ahead of kids. He was bigger, stronger and faster than most kids early on. He also used that talent and worked hard.”

Pat Ingold, Alec’s dad, was also his coach during his flag football days.

“In the three years he played, he only had his flag pulled once,” Pat Ingold said. “We’d let other kids run the ball on first, second, third downs – we’d never punt – and then hand it to Alec on fourth down and score.”

Pat Ingold said opponents had a hard time pulling his son’s flags off.

“He was an agile, fast and big kid,” he said. “He also cut and was elusive. If he got past people, nobody was going to run him down. You laugh thinking about those years because they were fun.”

Alec would frequent his uncle’s house and play with his cousins Sam, who was the same age, and Jack Rathburn.

Ingold would design plays and want to use them in games.

“He was trying to learn more about the game,” Kevin Rathburn said. “He surprised me athletically. He was a big kid, and normally, you’d expect big kids to be awkward, but he wasn’t. He was fluid, had great body control and was smooth. He had that hand-eye coordination that usually takes kids a while. He was natural and worked at utilizing that.”

According to his dad, his son’s hand-eye coordination stood out.

“He could hit a golf ball at 3 years old,” Pat Ingold said. “We used to play baseball with him with the little plastic bat and ball, and he’d rip it. One time, my wife pitched him the ball, and he hit it so hard it hit her in the forehead and put the plastic laces compressed in her forehead.”

Rathburn said he worked on skill development with his nephew.

“It was understanding the game, having fun and working with teammates,” he said. “I also gave him opportunities to play different positions, because, at that point, I knew he was athletic, but I didn’t know what position he was going to want to play or be interested in playing.”

Ingold also played some safety and wide receiver.

He moved to Pop Warner in the fourth grade.

Alec Ingold is shown here as a fourth-grader in his Pop Warner uniform. Submitted Photo

“I knew he was the fastest,” said Andres, who coached Ingold in Pop Warner in fourth and sixth grade. “He had the best balance and most agility.”

During a practice, Andres recalls preparing for his team’s first scrimmage with Ingold lining up in the backfield.

Play after play, Ingold got the ball and was tackled hard.

“I watched the film, which boiled down to mom’s video camera before people had video cameras on their phones,” Andres said. “Everyone would block for about two seconds and then turn around to see Alec go. He was getting creamed because no one held their block.”

To fix the problem, Andres strapped a tackling dummy onto the back of his pickup truck for a makeshift blocking shed.

“Alec was one of the first kids on it,” Andres said. “He was never above being what the rest of the team was going to do.”

Andres said Ingold was easy to coach, listening to anything adults told him.

“The character of his parents – you didn’t have to wonder if he was going to be respectful,” Andres said. “He was always a gentleman and respectful. There were other kids, too, but Alec would thank me for coaching every year, which was special to me.”

Ingold’s parents, Pat and Chris, never pushed their son with sports – he gravitated that way on his own.

Alec Ingold

“If Alec wanted to play football or baseball in the yard or wrestle in the living room, I always made myself available for him to do it,” Pat Ingold said. “I never wanted to come home from work and say I was too tired.”

Friday night was his night

Ingold’s freshman year at Bay Port High School was Gary Westerman’s first season as the head football coach.

Westerman said he knew he had a talented player who could do anything on the gridiron and worked hard in the weight room.

“He did everything to the nines (to the highest degree),” Westerman said. “He would go through a workout faster than anybody in our program. He’s a no-nonsense, business kind of guy. He didn’t screw around – he wanted to go.”

Ingold also excelled at wrestling.

His dad was a two-time All-American wrestler at Northern Michigan University.

Alec capped off his high school career with a 144-15 record and won the WIAA Division 1 220-pound state title as a senior.

Pat Ingold said wrestling was his son’s No. 1 sport until high school.

“The first time he played a varsity football game on a Friday night, his new sport was football,” he said.

As a sophomore, Ingold played running back and ran for 1,024 yards and 22 touchdowns.

He moved to quarterback the next season and threw for 1,427 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 860 yards and 10 scores.

His senior year saw him rush for 2,324 yards (178.8 per game) and 29 touchdowns and throw for 1,411 yards and 15 scores while being named the Associated Press Wisconsin Player of the Year.

A bruising runner in high school, Ingold carried that to college at Wisconsin and now to the NFL.

In week five this season, he took a swing pass out of the backfield, and while trying to gain a first down, collided with Kansas City Chiefs’ Bashaud Breeland.

The veteran defensive back’s helmet flew off, and the 240-pound Ingold reached for the first down.

“It’s interesting,” Westerman said. “Alec has become substantially more physical as a player. His senior year at Wisconsin, he became physical. You saw it in the last year and a half. He’s played with a chip on his shoulder, but at some point, a 22-year-old kid becomes a 24-year-old man.”

Ingold also fractured a pair of ribs during a Nov. 8 game against the Los Angeles Chargers but played the next week against the Denver Broncos.

Ingold’s parents and former coaches said they have enjoyed watching him get to the NFL.

“Through his younger years, I thought he had a legitimate shot,” his dad said. “Then you get to college and see there are so many good kids. Wisconsin has 80 kids on the team who were stars. You start to realize how difficult it is.”

With Ingold being a fullback, it was even tougher for him to make the NFL.

In a dying breed of using fullbacks – only 18 of 32 NFL teams had an active fullback during the 2019 season – Ingold went undrafted in 2019.

He signed a free-agent deal with the Raiders.

“He went there with 22 guys who were undrafted free agents on the 90-man roster, and he found a way to prevail,” Pat Ingold said. “He knew inside he was going to get here – he knew it.”

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