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Football journey: Jake Ingram

On Saturdays throughout the season, one Patriots player’s football journey is featured. This week, it is rookie long snapper Jake Ingram, the sixth-round draft choice from the University of Hawaii who has stepped into the large shoes of Lonie Paxton.

On where his football journey started: “I was 8 years old, Pop Warner football, Junior Pee Wee, the Mililani Trojans. I played another year of Junior Pee Wee, then two years of Pee Wee, and a year of Midgets. At that point, I said ‘I’m going to have to stop playing so much football and start surfing.’ I didn’t play in seventh or eighth grade, or my freshman year of high school. After that, I decided I needed to get back into it.”

Why he first started playing football: “I was always a fan of it. I remember telling my dad when I was seven years old, we were watching NFL Films, and I said to him ‘I want to play in the NFL some day.’ It’s one of my first memories of football. My older brother played it, so it was also one of those things that whatever he did, I wanted to do.”

What players and teams he followed as a youngster: “Junior Seau. I read his biography when I was in the fifth grade and did a book report on it. Brett Favre. Maa Tanuvasa, because he is from Mililani. I was never a big team guy; I was more interested in the players.”

On his high school football career: “I was a defensive end. I was 6-3, and it was that awkward stage. I was skinny, maybe 170 pounds as a sophomore. The next year as a junior, it was my first year of varsity. My senior year, I was all IAA defensive end but there was no scholarship offers. I thought to myself ‘I’m going to get there somehow.’”

On attending the University of Hawaii: “I always wanted to play for Hawaii. I remember my sophomore year of high school and it was Hawaii versus BYU, the last game of the regular season. I was in the nosebleeds and said ‘I will play for Hawaii one of these days.’ I grey-shirted coming out of high school, worked hard, got a highlight video out, and talked to a few schools – Boise, Oregon -- and then Rich Miano of Hawaii called me up and said they wanted me to walk on. I thought to myself ‘this is my shot.’”

Why he decided to grey-shirt: “That’s when you come out of your senior year of high school and take a part-time class, so your clock is not ticking. My goal was to get a scholarship, starting in the spring semester. I wanted to put on a little more size too.”

A defining part of his time at Hawaii: “I played d-end and felt good about spring ball, and then had a good fall game. I traveled as a freshman. The two d-ends in front of me ended up getting drafted that year. I used to mess around with one of our linebackers who was the long snapper. He was a cool guy to hang out with, so I’d warm up with him, and practice snapping the football. Next thing you know, we’re on the road, he hurts his hand and [head coach] June Jones was like ‘You’re going to snap for us this game.’ I was also on kick return and playing d-end, but about two or three games after that, he said ‘You’re just going to snap.’ It broke my heart. I was contemplating it all because I wanted to play, but I just sort of sucked up my pride and stuck with it, worked hard at it, and one thing led to another.”

His background as a snapper: “The only time I had done it before was messing around in high school.”

What people might not understand about snapping: “You want to throw a strike every time. Nobody is going to know who you are until you mess up. No long snapper is perfect. It’s a lot harder than people think – it’s not only snapping the ball but being able to block, and dealing with the pressure of the situation. Tiger Woods doesn’t put the ball in the fairway every single time and he’s the best golfer in the world. I think a long snapper is a lot like a golfer. You want to put it down the fairway, but sometimes it might not be right there. But you want to narrow it down and when you are in the game, really focus in and you should be all right.”

On the NFL draft process: “My senior year you hear the hype. That’s all it was to me, just hype. I didn’t really believe it. I was hoping someone would give me a shot in camp. I got invited to the Senior Bowl, which was awesome. It carried on to the Combine and I got invited there. Those were accomplishments for me. Draft day came and I got the phone call from [Patriots special teams coach] Scotty O’Brien, and he put Bill Belichick on the phone. Next thing you know, my name popped up on the screen. It was an awesome feeling.”

His thoughts on playing for the Patriots: “The learning curve is huge. To be a Patriot is awesome. You also have to realize the responsibility of doing your job. It’s also a culture change going from college to the NFL, and learning to deal with the different elements that you never really had to deal with in Hawaii. I think it’s best for me. If I would have gone somewhere else, in warm weather, what would have happened when I came into cold weather that I never had the chance to practice in? Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to do it. But I’m out here in it every day, and it’s good for me.”

Summing up the football journey: “It’s a journey of ups and downs. There was adversity but you keep your head down and keep working hard and working through it. You try not to think about tomorrow or next week or next year, just taking it one day at a time. That’s sort of the way it is for me – one snap at a time.”