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Interview: Mark Ingram talks about his new partnership, love of NOLA, life after Payton, football and more!

Tina Howell and Mark Ingram talk about what’s next for him on and off the field.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with New Orleans Saints Running Back Mark Ingram about his newest partnership off the field, his love of football, New Orleans and more. Ingram has teamed up with Microban 24, who is the official sanitizer spray of the NFL. He was recently named the Microban 24 “Most Valuable Protector” and has chosen the 18th Ward Sports Club in New Orleans to receive a year’s supply of the product as well as a $10,000 donation. The 18th Ward Sports Club is a non-profit organization that provides high-quality youth sports programs and trained coaches to make sure that kids have fun and learn the foundational skills to feel successful in sports. You can learn more about them at Home - The 18th Ward Sports Club

When asked about the program, Ingram said, “I’m truly honored to be partnered with Microban 24 and I’m grateful that we have mutual visions and mutual aspirations to be able to be a difference maker in the community.”

TH: How does it feel to be back in New Orleans and playing for the Saints?

MI: It’s just home! It really is! It's home for me. I spent the first eight years of my NFL career there. I met my wife there, I had 3 of my kids there. It’s just a special place, in my heart. The city, there’s just so much love. There is a culture like no other. The Saints and the City of New Orleans go hand and hand, they are one heartbeat together. Just to be able to go back home to a place who is so special to my heart, the community and the people who have had an impact on my life. I’m just so excited to back with the Saints and to be back in the city.

TH: What did you miss most about being in New Orleans outside of the best food and best fans in the world?

MI: I missed the love in the city. The Saints and the City of New Orleans are intertwined, they are one heartbeat. The love you get going out to eat, going into the grocery store, going to gas pump. The love in the city is genuine. It’s special. There is a special connection between the Saints and the city, so I missed that connection. It’s tough and it’s something that you can’t really speak on if you haven’t experienced it. The players and the fans, we all kind of feel it. It’s the energy and connection. I missed that vibe. I missed the energy, and I’m glad to be back and feeling that again.

TH: You have so much fun, on and off the field and a genuine love for football. Where do you get your inspiration?

MI: I love what I do! I’m a football baby. I come from a football family. My dad played in the league 10 years; my grandpa played. I grew up loving sports, all sports. I played basketball, soccer, baseball. I ran track, I golfed. I love athletics, I love competition and I love to win! As I grew up, I just had this burning desire to be the best. I always had it in me. I just love football and I love being with my guys. There is nothing like being with the fellas and having a great victory and being able to celebrate with the guys after in the locker room or celebrate over dinner or some drinks. It’s the best and it’s fun. On the field, during that time, you’re making plays, watching your teammates make plays, touchdowns, interceptions, turnovers, big hits, big catches, big blocks... All that energy, it’s just so much fun, it’s the best! You put in so much work, so much time, dedication and commitment to this game, to be able to be the best you can be on Sundays. There is so much more that goes into it than what fans see on Sunday. So much treatment, so much therapy, so much film, so many meetings. It's physically, mentally, emotionally, kind of taxing on you. So, when you’re out there on Sunday, that’s what you do it for.

All that stuff is fun and it’s a process and it’s a commitment. So, to be out there doing it with your guys, there is nothing like it. It is the most fun thing ever! I’m just a guy who likes to be around positive people, be around positive energy and be around fun people. I just kind of bring that with me no matter where I’m at both on and off the field. That’s what it’s all about, having fun and being with your people.

SEC Championship - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

TH: What are your thoughts on Sean Payton leaving and what do you see for this team in the future?

MI: Obviously, I think we are all shocked and I think it caught everyone by surprise. But at the same time, he put in 16 years in New Orleans. People only see Sundays or whenever we play. The amount of hours our coaching staff put in, on a game week is insane. They are up at 6 am and they go to sleep sometimes at 2 - 3 am. They put in big hours, and they don't have to do that. I have been some places where some coaches leave at 5 - 6 pm every day. But those coaches here and Sean, he holds them to a higher standard. That’s why we have so much fun and so much joy out of our success because of the amount of work they put in and the amount of work we put in. It kind of goes hand and hand so for him to be able to walk out on his own terms in this sport and this business because it truly is a business but there is life after football. I’m super happy for him and I’m super excited for him and his family. I pray for health, wealth, blessings and success on whatever his next chapter is. I know he has a plan, and he has a strategy and I know it will be great! Coach Payton never makes moves or makes changes without having some type of plan behind it. So, I’m happy for him and I love him to death. I’m thankful for everything he has done for me throughout my career, for believing in me and trusting in me. Helping me be a better football player, a better man and I wish him the best in this next chapter of his life because he deserves all the good things that life has to offer.

We’re happy for Coach Payton and we will keep pushing. He left us with a culture, he left us with a legacy and we’re going to keep it going. We’re going to keep striving to be Super Bowl champions and striving to bring that Lombardi back to the Saints and back to the city. That’s what we’re going to do!

TH: What are your goals for next season?

MI: I want to keep going, I want to rush for 10,000 yards. I’ve got like 2,000 more to go, so I want to knock a dent in that. I want to win a Super Bowl, that’s my main goal. I want to keep being a difference maker and playmaker on my team. I have individual goals but first and foremost, I want that Lombardi Trophy!

TH: Where do you see yourself in life after football? Do you have a plan in 5 or 10 years?

MI: I’m still so full in it and you can think about it, but I just know that I have a lot of football left in me! I’m so excited to continue to grow and improve and continue to help my team as a leader, as a playmaker and be a difference maker on this team. I’m full throttle locked into my career right now. I feel like I have a lot of football left in me so, I’m eager and I’m excited for what my career has to offer.

Post career though, not really sure yet. A lot of people have said I may be good in the media, maybe? I love the entrepreneurship, the business. I invested in DC United, I have part ownership in the MLS team. Taking steps as a businessman. But I’m just not sure, yet. I really want to drive a sprinter van around, be a soccer dad to my kids and drop my kids off, let them go to school, go get 9 to 18 holes in at the golf course, go have some lunch then go back to pick the kids up. Running them to practice and games. That’s what I really want to do, to be a father and a husband. I just want to be with my family. That’s really what I am going to do post career. Be a super dad, a soccer dad! Be with my family. But I know that there will be other opportunities that arise and that present themselves.

Thank you again Mark for taking the time to speak with me. We’re looking forward to seeing you on the field this fall, getting closer to those 10,000 yards and yes, go get that Lombardi!

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