Photos of Cameron Jordan from the 2015 regular season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert (New Orleans Saints photos)
On the surface, nothing fits.
One man is tall (6 feet 4) and dreadlocked, the other is short (5-9) and tightly coiffed. One plays defense, the other plays offense. One makes his living tackling opponents, the other, trying to make them miss. They played college football virtually on opposite ends of the United States, one at the University of California in Berkeley, the other at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
On the surface, nothing fits.
But the friendship, the brotherhood, between defensive end Cam Jordan and running back Mark Ingram goes much deeper than the surface, a bond that was formed on the day they met, April 28, 2011, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
That night, Jordan and Ingram became teammates, each drafted in the first round by the Saints, Jordan at No. 24 and Ingram at No. 28.
That night, Jordan and Ingram became friends, bonded by a franchise.
That night, and the ensuing days, Jordan and Ingram began the process of becoming about as close as two men could who didn't share a parent or parents.
"Mark's my guy," Jordan said.
"That's my dude," Ingram countered.
And each, a respective locker-room funnyman who is capable of adding an air of levity to almost any situation, is about as serious as he gets when he says it.
"We met in New York," Jordan said. "He was on the elevator going down, he said, 'Yo, so you're here for the draft?' I said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'Oh, you just got drafted?' He said, 'Yeah,' I said, 'Congratulations.' "
"He's a Bama guy, I was a Cal kid. He was a Heisman Trophy winner. We never crossed paths. And then in New York, when you get picked 24th and somebody gets picked 28th, you're going to the same team and pretty much sharing the same flight, you figure it out. He's been my guy for six years."
Said Ingram: "I had no clue who Cam Jordan was. I didn't even know who he was when they called his name. When I got drafted by the Saints, I knew he went four picks before me. I don't know where I was coming from or where he was coming from but – I was with my family, he was with his family – we introduced ourselves, our families met, we exchanged information and ever since that day, we've been close.
"That's like my brother. Ever since that day, I have a friend for life, I have a brother for life. It's crazy how this game brings people together.
The game didn't just bring together Jordan and Ingram. It refused to allow them to part.
"When we got here, he had been working out here so I sort of lived with him for the first couple of weeks," Jordan said. "I was like, living in the hotel. It was a lockout year, I wasn't really sure what was going down and he had a spot and I said, 'You mind if I crash on the couch?' And that's just what it was, one teammate looking out for another teammate."
Said Ingram: "I had a little townhouse in Old Metairie, and he didn't have a place to stay so I said, 'Come on.' That was cool. I think that was when we really started being close. Any time you're bunking up you get to see who they really are – if they're junky, if they're clean, if they're annoying, if they're not."
If there has been an annoyance, it has been felt by opponents.
Jordan, a two-time Pro Bowler, has 30 sacks, 16 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and five fumble recoveries over the last three seasons. Ingram, a Pro Bowler in 2014, has posted consecutive years of NFL-best numbers for him: career highs in 2014 of 964 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns, then career highs in receptions (50), receiving yards (405) and yards from scrimmage (1,174) last season.
Each is integral to his unit, Jordan as the quarterback harasser and every-down stalwart, and Ingram as the well-rounded offensive weapon who, despite injuries, has developed into a reliable back who's capable of playing every down.
And entering their sixth season as Saints, there are no signs of either slowing down on the field, or the friendship diminishing off it.
In fact, despite the stark differences, there also are startling similarities.
Each has an NFL father: Jordan's father, Steve, was a three-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Vikings from 1982-94; Ingram's father, Mark, played for four franchises in 10 seasons and was a member of the Giants' Super Bowl XXV-winning team.
"It's like a legacy," Ingram said. "I think you can relate to each other on a different level just because you've experienced things.
"You had a father that has played that has pushed you and driven you since you were a little boy, instilled hard work, been tough on you, making sure you're disciplined, making sure you're living the right way – a lot of the things that were instilled in him, were instilled in me from my father and my mother.
"So I think we could relate to each other immediately. You just click with certain guys. We have a lot of the same goals and aspirations. That's why we're so close."
Now, each has become a father of two, Jordan with his girlfriend and Ingram with his fiancé. Their second child (each a daughter) shares in common a name – Noel Grace (Jordan) and Mila Grace (Ingram), born this summer, in August, less than three weeks apart.
"We came in the league having fun, having a good time," Ingram said. "We've been a lot of places, out of the country, in the country. We've had a lot of moments and memories that I will cherish the rest of my life.
"It's just crazy to see that around the end of our third, fourth year, he started getting serious with his girlfriend, I started getting serious with my fiancé. And then we were fighting, saying we're not going to get married until, like, 30. I ended up having a baby and then he had his baby. And then he told me they were pregnant again and shortly after that, I found out that me and my fiancé were pregnant again.
"Our lives are like on an identical trail right now. I'm just happy that it's with one of my best brothers, one of my best friends. You develop lots of relationships on a team and I'm close with a lot of guys in the locker room, but Cam, that's my dude. I love that guy to death."
On the surface, nothing fits. Underneath it, everything seems to.
"That's why this game is so special," Ingram said. "That's why, people don't understand, this game is so important. You develop friendships and relationships that you will cherish for a lifetime.
"I probably never would have met Cam a day in my life if we didn't play football. He comes from Cal, I come from Alabama. This game just brings people close together. That's what's so important about it. If it wasn't for football, I probably wouldn't have one of my best friends ever."