MIAMI GARDENS — The issues? Dolphins fullback Alec Ingold can tell you all about the issues he faced. But there are some things you need to know first.
Start with his parents, Pat and Chris. He couldn’t be more grateful for them. Same with his sister, Sydnie. And the same for the family home, the one he grew up in, the one the family still has today. When he returns to Wisconsin, he can head down to his room in the basement, light up the fireplace and know he’s where he belongs.
“I never knew anything different,” Ingold says. “My parents did a great job of being extremely transparent. So it was never a secret.”
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“It” is the loving family Ingold comes from. It's not his biological family. His is an adoption story, a perfect adoption story, really, because of how well everything is turning out.
“One hundred percent,” he says.
Ingold, 26, says this even though there were things he encountered growing up that most kids never think about. This weekend isn’t about that, though. It’s about the responsibility Ingold carries with him to pay it forward.
If you look closely at the HD images on your TV during Sunday's Dolphins-49ers game, you’ll see Ingold isn’t wearing his normal cleats but, instead, sporting cleats supporting The Children’s Home Society of Florida, an adoption and foster care advocacy nonprofit. It’s part of the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign in which players sport custom cleats that are auctioned off to benefit their selected charities.
“It’s something where I can relate to kids that are in foster care and adoption because I went through that,” he says. “And so whenever I have a chance to work on my platform, on my speaking, on my advocacy for these kids, I feel like I wear that with a lot of responsibility and a lot of pride to be able to say, ‘I have a great family. I have a great support system.’ ”
Ingold met his biological mother once. He was 8.
“I just remember it was pretty emotional for everyone involved,” he says. “I think it was a lot of happiness, that this is what everyone was hoping for.”
But Ingold is frank about the issues he wrestled with as a young boy, including the fact he’s of mixed race and his parents are white.
“There’s tough times with my race and ethnicity being different than my family growing up,” he says. “And I never really gave it much time, like I just kind of dealt with it suppressed. I found different ways to kind of avoid the issue.
“And as you grow up, I just became a big, like, people pleaser. Always needed to be a perfectionist, like I felt I needed to be better, because I needed to be accepted, whether it’s making my parents proud, making somebody proud. I was never just good enough.
“And that was a lot of suppressed feelings from adoptions, and from feeling like a liability to my birth parents and all those issues that really arise.”
The mood lightens 180 degrees when the conversation shifts to his sister. Ingold laughs.
“We’re really close, really tight and we love each other,” he says. “And she’s about 5-4 and a hundred pounds soaking wet and I’m a fullback in the NFL.”
Sounding even more like the watchful big brother at 6-feet-1 and 235 pounds, he goes on about Sydnie.
“She works her tail off,” he says. “She’s a dancer. She’s always been a huge supporter of mine with all my sports. You know, she’s got over a 4.0 GPA. She’s in all these AP classes, applying to big-time schools … ”
It was easy for Alec to find role models. He didn’t exactly grow up in the shadow of Lambeau Field, but it was close.
“It was always the Packers,” he says. “There’s always guys that looked like me. … It’s what I grew up doing. There’s not much to do up in Wisconsin, in Green Bay, you know, except go to church and root for the Packers.”
After spending his first three NFL seasons with the Raiders, Ingold signed with the Dolphins in March. With that came a gift. The Dolphins play the Packers on Christmas Day in Miami Gardens.
“About half of my town is going to be down here trying to escape the cold, snow, winter, all of that,” he says.
Playing in front of the only family he has known — what could be better?
“It’s always special,” he says. “I’ll never take that for granted.”
Sunday’s game against San Francisco features the top two early vote-getters for the Pro Bowl at fullback, with the 49ers’ Kyle Juszczyk leading the race. Chances are the two will exchange pleasantries for the first time either during warmups or postgame handshakes. In-between, Ingold will shoulder his usual responsibilities protecting Tua Tagovailoa, blocking for the running backs, maybe catching a pass or two.
All the while, he’ll wear his gratitude on his feet, in orange cleats reading “Children’s Home Society of Florida” and “CHS.”
“Those kids go through a lot, bouncing from house to house, the inconsistencies,” he says. “The fear that they go through. So from getting educated out in the foster care system to trying to help anywhere I can there — I think everyone deserves a loving family.”
Dolphins participating in My Cause My Cleats
Terron Armstead: Black Women’s Health Imperative (cancer research and awareness)
Jerome Baker: Expand The Land Foundation (youth education and mentoring)
Justin Bethel: Save The Music (youth education and mentoring)
Josh Boyer: Stand With Parkland (public safety reforms, focusing on school safety)
Teddy Bridgewater: Black Women’s Health Imperative (cancer research and awareness)
Tanner Conner: Breast Cancer Research Foundation (cancer research and awareness)
River Cracraft: Hilinski’s Hope (suicide prevention and awareness)
Raekwon Davis: Black Belt Community Foundation (Alabama region community resources and innovation)
Blake Ferguson: Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (juvenile diabetes research)
Myles Gaskin: Boys & Girls Clubs of America (youth education and mentoring)
Mike Gesicki: The Arc (resources for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities)
Alec Ingold: Children’s Home Society of Florida (adoption and foster care advocacy)
Austin Jackson: Be The Match (bone marrow donation education and advocacy)
Byron Jones: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation (research and awareness for the disease)
Hunter Long: Cush It To The Limit (pediatric cancer research and awareness)
Mike McDaniel: Dolphins Challenge Cancer (cancer research and awareness)
Verone McKinley: Values Matter Miami (positive student development)
Raheem Mostert: Raheem Mostert Waves of Success Foundation (youth education and mentoring), plus Melanoma Research Foundation (research and awareness)
Emmanuel Ogbah: American Cancer Society (research and awareness)
Jaelan Phillips: UHealth (ataxia telangiectasia research and awareness)
Elandon Roberts: Dolphins Challenge Cancer (cancer research and awareness)
Eric Rowe: International Justice Mission (social justice/ending violence against those in poverty)
Zach Sieler: Sieler Safe Haven Foundation (advocacy for youth outdoor education and accessibility)
Durham Smythe: Austin Pets Alive! (animal justice and cruelty prevention)
Tua Tagovailoa: Tua Foundation (support for youth initiatives, health and wellness)
Skylar Thompson: Dolphins Challenge Cancer, Thompson Family Cancer Research Fund (research and awareness)
Andrew Van Ginkel: Alex’s Lemonade Stand (pediatric cancer research and awareness)
Jaylen Waddle: Black Women’s Health Imperative (cancer research and awareness)
Connor Williams: Michael’s Memories (trips to families going through cancer)
Jeff Wilson: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (prevention of drunk driving and victim support)
Hal Habib covers the Dolphins for The Post. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Dolphins' Alec Ingold discusses his adoption, joining a ‘loving family'