#TBT Big Ten Medal of Honor - Jack Ingram 2005
April 24, 2014
One of the most prestigious conference awards in college athletics, the Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." In 2014, the conference celebrates the 100th anniversary of this prestigious award.
Originally recruited to Tulsa by former UI coach Bill Self, Ingram spent two years in Oklahoma before following Self to Illinois prior to the 2002-03 school year. He sat out the season per NCAA transfer rules. Once the San Antonio native started playing his junior season, he contributed greatly to the success of the basketball program during his time in Champaign. Ingram saw action in every game as the Illini's go-to big man off the bench. He added solid post defense and rebounding throughout his junior and senior seasons.
In the 100th season of Illini basketball, the 2004-05 Fighting Illini men's basketball team enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in recent college history with the fantastic starting five of Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Luther Head, Roger Powell and James Augustine. After 29-straight wins to start the season, dominating opponents throughout, and winning the Big Ten conference regular season title outright, the Illini became Big Ten Tournament champions.
Ingram played his best basketball of the season in the NCAA Tournament, posting his three highest scoring games as an Illini during the team's run to the title game. He had a career-high 12 points in the second round win over Nevada, nine points in the Final Four win over Louisville, and then poured in 11 points and pulled down a season-high seven rebounds while playing a career-high 30 minutes in the National Championship game against North Carolina. He also played a key role in what's simply become known as "The Comeback," the thrilling Elite Eight overtime victory over Arizona. Trailing by 15 points with under four minutes to go, the Fighting Illini staged a furious comeback to pull within three with under a minute to play. The Wildcats had possession and were primed to run some clock, but Ingram managed a tip on an inbound play, leading to a steal by Luther Head and game-tying three-pointer by Deron Williams. Illinois went on to win in overtime and eventually advanced to the National Championship game, losing to North Carolina, 75-50. Illinois ended its fairytale season with an overall record of 37-2, tying the NCAA record for most wins in a season.
Ingram chose to come to Illinois not only for basketball, but for the top-rated electrical engineering program that the University offered. He was an Academic All-Big Ten selection while at Illinois and was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2005.
"That's why I went to Illinois," Ingram said. "I wanted to play basketball, and I wanted to take it as far as it would let me, and then when that time was over I tried to see where I could put my engineering degree to use.
"I was really surprised to be nominated for the award. And then going through the ceremony, I was greatly honored and surprised with how much the award meant and how special it was to be able to win."
"It was a pretty big culture shock for me when I first went overseas," Ingram said. "I don't know if you really ever appreciate your own culture and the things that make up where you grow up until you have to go somewhere and live without them. I became pretty grateful for being able to grow up and live in America after being overseas for four years.
"The next step after that, I really appreciated the other people and their cultures. I traveled a lot with basketball in college. I had been overseas with Illinois with traveling tours in the summer. But living in another culture and seeing it day in and day out, you definitely get a different perspective and appreciation for other people. Everything is different, but when you're able to live there for a couple months to a couple years, you start to see that it's a little different but it's basically the same."
There is a lot of growth for an engineer in a company with cutting edge technology and Ingram enjoys being able to see that technology mature. He says Delphi has technology that can truly enrich people's lives and help some of the social and environmental issues that face all of us. He hopes that kind of technology will change the world.
"With an Illinois degree, I was able to get on with a really good company with really cool, cutting edge technology and power electronics," Ingram said. "I was very fortunate to have my degree from Illinois because it really paid off when I was done playing basketball.
"I try to tell people that being at Illinois, playing basketball and doing engineering - there are a lot of things now with my job that came from a direct lesson that I learned from a class. Really, the biggest thing I learned was that Illinois instilled self-confidence in me. I knew that any challenge I would face, I would have the confidence to overcome and figure out a way to get the job done."