GREENVILLE — When he starts thinking about his track career, Derrick Ingram is drawn back to his first collegiate meet.
A wide-eyed freshman from Lumberton representing East Carolina University, Ingram was set to compete in the 400-meter race at Virginia Tech.
“I always think about that,” Ingram said. “Me being a small town Lumberton guy, I wanted to prove I could do it.”
And he did, bursting onto the scene with the first of many victories en route to being named the Colonial Athletic Association’s Rookie of the Year in 1997.
“I was so excited,” he said. “Right then it showed me, ‘Oh yeah, I can do this.’”
Ingram went on to become one of the most decorated track and field athletes in ECU history. This year, the Lumberton native is one of four ECU student-athletes set to be inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame.
“It was a great four years at ECU with a lot of great memories,” Ingram said. “It’s an honor to be one of the most prestigious athletes to come through the university.”
The accomplishments seem endless.
Named to the CAA’s Silver Anniversary team in 2010, he was named the league’s 1998 co-Male Athlete of the Year. He earned All-America honors in the 200-meter dash as a sophomore and received the exalted acclaim three times as a member of the Pirates 4×400 relay team. Ingram was voted the Athlete of the Meet at the 1997 and 2000 CAA Championships and was a three-time conference champion in the 200- and 400-meter dash.
Ingram will be formally enshrined inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Oct. 6 and will be recognized at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as a part of the halftime festivities during the Pirates’ Oct. 7 football game against Temple.
“It’ll be something knowing that people will see my name in the Hall of Fame area,” he said. “I’m excited.”
It’s a journey that started at Lumberton, where Ingram helped the Pirates’ 800-meter relay team win the 1995 4-A state championship. With his parents, David and Foddie Roberts behind him as his “biggest motivators,” Ingram also spoke highly of his former coach, Danny Graham.
“I love Lumberton, most of my family still resides there,” he said. “Danny Graham means so much to me as a person. I thank him so much for that. We started building on after that (state championship) with the other programs. We started something, showing that Lumberton kids can win and win big.”
Graham remembers Ingram’s determination like it was yesterday.
“He was a kid that was motivated to be the best. I was fortunate enough to coach him for three years,” Graham said. “He was the kid that gave our track program its name, along with others. Derrick was the leader of that group. He wanted to achieve and earn a track scholarship. That was always his goal.”
And Graham had no doubts about Ingram’s ability to take that same talent and drive to Greenville.
“I knew once he got to ECU he would be motivated to be the best,” he said. “I didn’t know he would be in the Hall of Fame, but I knew he was motivated to be one of the best they had.
“He did it. It’s a great honor for him and I’m really proud.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.