Former UF player giving back
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
When Cornelius Ingram speaks, people listen. Especially in his hometown of Hawthorne.
"They treat me like Obama in Hawthorne," said Ingram, a former standout tight end with the University of Florida.
He said that he has been weighing options with several NFL teams, but in the meantime, he has been working to get his message out to area youth.
"Our kids are our future," Ingram said. "I really like having the opportunity to give back. No matter what a kid wants to do, whether it is go to college or get a job after high school, they need someone to talk with.
"Being in a small town like Hawthorne, I really have a chance to make an impact and that means a lot to me."
Currently, Ingram spends a great deal of time working with his church, Miracle Deliverance in Hawthorne.
He credits his parents and pastor Robby Williams for being a big part of his development, as well as his older brother, Greg Bowie, who led Hawthorne's boys basketball team to the Class 1A state championship game against Florida signee Chris Walker and Bonifay Holmes County.
His hometown, though, isn't the only place that Ingram has become a fixture.
In Marion County, he has become a huge friend to the North Marion High School football program and its longtime coach Craig Damon.
"I've known coach Damon since I was in 10th grade," Ingram said. "We talked a lot about me actually coming to North Marion and throwing passes to (former Florida State and North Marion wide receiver) Greg Carr, but I really love where I am from."
Damon said Ingram has been a huge asset to the NMHS program and he helped the program put on a celebrity all-star basketball game, which took place this past weekend in Sparr.
Ingram's team featured former Gators Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Kestahn Moore and Willie Jackson and brought a packed house to the NMHS gym on a night where the school retired the number of past football greats.
"Anytime that I have needed something, he's been right there," Damon said. "Even though he didn't go (to North Marion), he's been a big help to us.
"Anytime we needed someone to come and speak to the kids about FCAT or anything else, he's been right there. He's always helped me."
Ingram is glad he has the chance to work with youth in Alachua and Marion counties.
"Hawthorne and North Marion are a lot alike in that they are both on the outskirts of the counties they are," he said. "A lot of people said to me that I wouldn' be able to make it from a small town and I am sure a lot of people tell the players at North Marion the same thing, so my message to the younger kids is to believe in yourselves and your dreams can come true."