A look at why Jailyn Ingram gave up football for FAU basketball

The freshman received multiple offers to play football for historically successful programs.


Ingram prepares to catch the ball while running a drill that forces the players to shoot while fatigued. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Hans Belot Jr., Contributing Writer

Leading by a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter on a Friday night in 2014, Morgan County High School Bulldogs marched down the football field to set up shop at Putnam County’s 10-yard line.

The Bulldogs quarterback dropped back and had his eyes set on the left side of the field where a 6-foot-7 wide receiver was being closely covered. The quarterback launched it to the receiver, who was playing in the second football game of his entire life.

The receiver jumped up and grabbed the ball with one hand over the defender — who was attempting to push him out of bounds — and came down inbounds to put Morgan County up 14-0 en route to a 42-6 blowout.

This 6-foot-7 kid’s name was Jailyn Ingram, a newcomer to this year’s Florida Atlantic basketball team.

Courtesy of Cynthia Knight.
Courtesy of Cynthia Knight.

“I don’t care who you are, or what college you were going to play for, nobody was going to stop him from catching that ball,” said Morgan County head football coach Bill Malone. “It was just the second game of the year and we realized, ‘Wow, this guy’s got some skills.”

A year and a half later, that same 6-foot-7 kid was playing in perhaps one of the biggest games of his life — a state championship basketball game between Morgan County and Jenkins High School.

In what would be his last high school basketball game, Ingram scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Bulldogs to a 66-56 win.

“It looked to be effortless,” said Jamond Sims, Ingram’s head basketball coach at Morgan County. “Those are the moments that make you realize you have a special player.”

Ingram dunks during a high school playoff game in March of 2016. Photo courtesy of Kent D. Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Ingram dunks during a high school playoff game in March of 2016. Photo courtesy of Kent D. Johnson/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A year earlier, the same Jenkins team was the one celebrating at the expense of Morgan County, despite Ingram scoring 20 points while also adding eight rebounds and three blocks.

He converted an and-one 3-point play to tie the game at 60 in the final seconds, but not before a last-second layup broke the hearts of the Bulldogs.

For Ingram, beating Jenkins in 2016 wasn’t about revenge.

“He just went out there and played ball,” said Ingram’s mother, Allison Peoples, who saw that it was up to Ingram to win the game. “It was more or less, ‘My teammates are not giving me the opportunity, so I’ll take them under my wings and go.’”

Ingram grew up in Madison, Georgia, a small town located 60 miles east of Atlanta. With a population of less than 4,000, Ingram said that everyone knew each other.

“It’s a very humble town,” Ingram said. “[There’s] not too many people there, so everyone is family.”

Ingram began playing basketball when he was still a baby. His mom set up a hoop for him while he was still in the crib.

“He would be in his crib, sitting there trying to throw the basketball into the hoop,” Peoples said, smiling when recalling the experience. “The older he got, he started to use his walker to get around the house. He would use his walker to walk around the hallway while he was shooting the basketball.”

Years later, his white headband and combination of flashy dunks, alley-oops, fearless drives to the bucket and pull-up jumpers made No. 15 stand out on his high school basketball team.

“He is one of the most versatile and selfless individuals you could have on a team,” Sims said. “He’s always one who will think about the overall outcome of the game [over] stats. He can defend multiple positions because of his length and quickness, and he’s just special.”

Ingram was already attracting attention from Division I colleges when Malone finally got him to try football his junior year.

Courtesy of 247Sports
Courtesy of 247Sports

“We were trying to get him out since the [9th] grade,” Malone said. “It wasn’t that we didn’t try, we just couldn’t get him to come out. I believe he had some friends on the [football] team that were major influences, and we were able to get him his 11th grade year.”

It turned out that putting the ball in the hoop wasn’t the only thing Ingram could do well. He could also catch passes from quarterbacks.

He did so well, in fact, that it only took two years for Ingram to attract some of the biggest names in college football. According to 247Sports, the University of Michigan, the current No. 2 ranked team in the nation, sent Jay Harbaugh, positions coach and son of head coach Jim Harbaugh, to visit Ingram.

Florida State, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State all offered Ingram a spot on their football team. Florida State and Michigan have 14 combined national championships, while FAU basketball has only made one national tournament appearance in 23 years.

Although he considered every college team that sent him recruiting letters, football was never where his heart was. It was all about the sport he began playing in his crib.

Ingram watches the ball go in the hoop during preseason practice. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Ingram watches the ball go in the hoop during preseason practice. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

“It’s just my love for the game,” Ingram said.

For basketball, Ingram was recruited by Florida State, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia State, Tennessee, Alabama and University Florida.

Despite the interest from the bigger schools, however, FAU always topped Ingram’s list.

“I became a part of this program because it was a family-oriented program,” he said. “I love that and the atmosphere here.”

Ingram’s FAU teammates look past him being a freshman. Sophomore small forward Jeantal Cylla said he was able to come in and play right away.

“He’s made a huge impact,” Cylla said. “Jailyn’s a guy that can play multiple positions, we expect great things out of him.”

Ingram wants to be successful on and off the court at FAU. In the classroom, he wants his GPA to be a 3.8. On the court, he wants his team to reach unfamiliar heights.

“[I] definitely want to win a conference championship and to make an appearance in the NCAA tournament,” Ingram said.

For Peoples, however, her goals for Ingram are even further in the future.

“I say the NBA,” said Peoples. “Of course, I would want him to play for the Miami Heat any day.”

Hans Belot Jr. is a contributing writer with the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.