Melvin Ingram has been one of the hottest and most discussed commodities during the two-month NFL Draft season.
Thursday night, the scrutiny finally came to an end, although he fell a few spots lower than where most NFL draft experts thought he would go.
Ingram became the eleventh player in South Carolina history to be taken in the first round of the draft - and the second of the night - when the San Diego Chargers selected the former All-America defensive lineman with the No. 18 overall pick.
Earlier, Stephon Gilmore was selected No. 10 by Buffalo, marking the first time since 1981 that USC has seen two players taken in the first round.
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Ingram's name at approximately 9:45 p.m., the Hamlet, N.C., native walked onto the stage in front of dozens of league executives, the media, thousands of fans watching the proceedings live from their seats at Radio City Music Hall and millions watching on ESPN and NFL Network and shared a unique handshake with the commissioner.
Where Ingram would land was one of the most intriguing topics leading up to the NFL Draft. He was viewed by most clubs as the perfect outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
"Melvin Ingram gives the Chargers that versatile hybrid player to play off the edge," NFL.com draft analyst Bucky Brooks said. "I'm not real sure why he slipped, to be quite honest with you. I see no reason on tape for it. He has the versatility and athleticism you're looking for. I wouldn't say it was necessarily anything he was doing as much as other guys moving up and needs and what not. I think it's a great pick."
Ingram flourished after moving from linebacker to defensive end in 2009. After redshirting in 2008 (he suffered a broken foot in the spring), Ingram had 18 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore in 2009, then erupted for 9.0 sacks and 11.0 TFL in 2010.
Everything fell in place for Ingram during his sensational 2011 season when he collected 48 tackles, 10 sacks (tying the single-season school record set by Andrew Provence), 15 TFL and three touchdowns on special teams and defense. He won three SEC Player of the Week honors.
Ingram first gained notoriety in Week 2 last season when he returned a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown at Georgia. Later in the game, he scooped up a fumble caused by Jadeveon Clowney and scored his second TD of the night in USC's wild 45-42 victory, thus becoming the first SEC player since 2006 to score an offensive and defensive TD in the same game.
As a result, Ingram became just the third consensus first-team All-American at USC, joining George Rogers (1980) and Del Wilkes (1984) in that elite company, and earned invitations to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis.
Ingram finished his Gamecock career with 109 tackles, 30.5 tackles for loss, 21.5 sacks and two interceptions.
USC'S FIRST ROUND NFL DRAFT PICKS
2012 - CB Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo) and DE/OLB Melvin Ingram (San Diego)
2006 - DB Johnathan Joseph, Cincinnati (24)
2005 - WR Troy Williamson, Minnesota (7)
2004 - DB Dunta Robinson, Houston (10)
2000 - DL John Abraham, NY Jets (13)
1993 - OL Ernest Dye, Arizona (18)
1988 - WR Sterling Sharpe, Green Bay (7)
1981 - RB George Rogers, New Orleans (1); Willie Scott, Kansas City (14)
1979 - DB Rick Sanford, New England (25).
2012 NFL DRAFT - FIRST ROUND (18 Picks):
1. Indianapolis - QB Andrew Luck (Stanford)
2. Washington - QB Robert Griffin III (Baylor)
3. Cleveland - RB Trent Richardson (Alabama)
4. Minnesota - OT Matt Kalil (Southern Cal)
5. Jacksonville - WR Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State)
6. Dallas - CB Morris Claiborne (LSU)
7. Tampa Bay - S Mark Barron (Alabama)
8. Miami - QB Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M)
9. Carolina - LB Luke Kuechly (Boston College)
10. Buffalo - CB Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina)
11. Kansas City - DT Dontari Poe (Memphis)
12. Philadelphia - DT Fletcher Cox (Miss. State)
13. Arizona - WR Michael Floyd (Notre Dame)
14. St. Louis - DT Michael Brockers (LSU)
15. Seattle - DE Bruce Irvin (West Virginia)
16. NY Jets - DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina)
17. Cincinnati - DB Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama)
18. San Diego - DE/OLB Melvin Ingram (South Carolina)
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