Alec Ingold has spent the last few months living out of a hotel room, not sure if he would need to search for a more permanent residence in the Bay Area.
The undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin arrived at the Oakland Raiders training facility in Alameda, Calif., in early-May with a smile on his face, and he's continued to smile through all the uncertainty.
Upon arrival, Ingold was locked into a position battle with Keith Smith for the starting fullback job. Smith, a six-year veteran, was known for his presence on special teams, and served an integral role with the Raiders last season, but a knee injury left the door cracked for Ingold to try and burst through.
Day after day, Ingold chipped away at the starting job one block at a time, and consistently put his technique on display. When Smith eventually returned for the third preseason game, he registered a receiving touchdown, and made the competition that much more interesting; however, Ingold had done enough to prove to the coaching staff he earned the job. For an undrafted free agent, not a day goes by that he doesn't need to prove himself, and separating learning from Smith while trying to take his paycheck was a difficult line to tow.
"He's such a nice guy and a genuine dude, and it's so tough when you're getting taught by a guy all these different things on how to step this way, and when the defense does this, how you react, and then go out and try to be 'the guy' on the field is definitely really tough," Ingold explained. "You kind of have to separate the classroom from the field, be quiet and reserved, and understanding off the field, and then once you get on the field you have to be kind of a different animal. You got to let your pads do the talking and just really leave it all out there, and gain as much respect as you can as fast as possible."
Through his character, attentiveness, and technique Ingold has earned the respect of his peers and the coaching staff. For a kid from Green Bay, the thought of making an NFL roster felt like a longshot, but he beat the odds. On cut day, Ingold wasn't among the list of players to be sent home, and a sense of gratitude fell over him. As he walked around the facility, he couldn't help but reflect on how fortunate he was to go undrafted and find himself in the position he was in.
The time to bask in his triumph was brief, as the division-rival Denver Broncos were a little more than a week away from coming to town.
While he took advantage of his opportunity in training camp and the preseason, there's only so much that can prepare you for the regular season.
Especially when he knew he'd be tasked with blocking Von Miller Week 1.
Leading up to the Raiders matchup with the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, Ingold experienced various emotions, as he prepared for his first real NFL action. Draped in the Silver and Black, the former Wisconsin Badger will never forget the roar of Raider Nation as he took the field.
"It was something I'll never forget, for sure," he said. "There's big talk of Raider Nation and they're kind of everywhere, social media, and just out and about, so just being able to truly hear that and feel that was unbelievable. I've never heard anything like that before in my life, so being able to go out there and feel the atmosphere and feel the fans was absolutely just breathtaking. Once the ball was snapped, we just played football and the offense was rolling, we got in a groove, and it's about as good as you could've drawn it up yesterday."
Got in a groove indeed.
It's clear Coach Gruden wanted to feed rookie running back Josh Jacobs early, and get the first-round pick comfortable with the pace of the game. For many of those handoffs, Ingold was on the field, and he paved the way for a few of Jacobs' biggest plays.
If you watch No. 45, you'll see that he was instrumental on both of Jacobs' touchdown runs and fended off Miller trying to penetrate the edge.
Ingold pieced together a quality performance that won't be recognized by many – as it doesn't show up in the stat sheet – but Jacobs certainly appreciates his effort.
Jacobs and Ingold have formed a bond over the last five months, and the two appear to be in lockstep on the field. It's in its early stages, but the two are making it a priority to communicate in great detail about the game plan for each practice, and game going forward.
"Nah, but me and Alec [Ingold] — the fullback — we have a tradition that we do before every practice and before the game," Jacobs said postgame Monday when asked if he has any pregame rituals. "It's not nothing major, we just talk about what we're going to do that day; whether it's what we plan on executing or our focus."
"We take the little things really seriously and we want to be accountable to one another," Ingold added. "There's no expectation… there's no stone unturned between the two of us when we're talking. We really try to cover everything and get our minds clear and loose, and we go out and play for each other as one unit, for sure."
The duo is tactical and try to prepare for everything, but there will understandably be a learning curve for each of them. Ingold is the type of player that doesn't have a problem keeping his composure, but after he realized he went toe-to-toe with Von Miller he was a bit taken back.
"I think it was pretty surreal," he said candidly. "I didn't even notice it until after the fact when I was jogging off the field that's who I had block. That's one thing I have to take with me. You got to study the tape and you have to understand who you're playing against, but at the same time you have to trust your technique and the rules your coaches are giving you."
Ingold's efforts helped Jacobs become the first running back since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001 total more than 100 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in an NFL debut, but more importantly he helped the Raiders notch their first win of the regular season.
Following the game, Ingold walked back to the locker room to find a bevy of messages from his friends, family, and of course Raider Nation flooding his phone and social media.
"There was a lot of shout-outs from back home," Ingold shared. "A lot of people really proud of a kid from Green Bay. Not exactly the most common thing in the world to be playing in the NFL, so it was really cool to see the outreach there, and Raider Nation was going kind of crazy too, so I think everyone was pretty excited about those blocks."
Ingold won't get the love he deserves on SportsCenter, but then again, he doesn't need the validation. He's a humble individual from Green Bay who's grateful to be where he is – a true unsung hero.