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This weekend's game is one Boilermaker receiver Kyle Ingraham has long looked forward to, and likely won't soon forget.
For most of Purdue's football team, this weekend's trip to Tucson, Ariz., to play the University of Arizona might be just another road trip for just another non-conference football game; for Ingraham, though, it's much, much more.
"You don't want to look to far ahead," Ingraham said, "but this one's been in the back of my mind."
You see, Ingraham's ties to Saturday's opponent run deep.
He was born in Tucson, where both his parents were Wildcat athletes, with father Corky playing football and earning All-Pac-10 honors as a linebacker; his mother, Susan, was an All-America swimmer who might have appeared in the 1980 Summer Olympics had the U.S. not boycotted.
Kyle Ingraham was still a small child when the family moved. That certainly doesn't mean, though, that the ties have been broken.
Ingraham's godparents — Bill and Shirley Estes — are among UA's most prominent benefactors. Arizona's weight-training facility bears their name, as their lead donation helped fund its construction.
The Esteses remain close to the Ingrahams to this day. In fact, Kyle grew up spending holidays at the Estes home and watching Wildcat games from their sky box in Arizona Stadium.
That box will likely be packed solid with No. 89 fans on Saturday night — even if some are technically Arizona fans. Expected on hand are parents, siblings, godparents, aunts, uncles and anyone else from the past who might show to see Ingraham, now that the 6-foot-9 junior is all grown up, pun very much intended.
"I'll be more excited than nervous, I think," said Ingraham, who had little choice but to grow up an Arizona fan, for obvious reasons. "… It's one of those dreams you have."
When recruited out of Clark High School in San Antonio, Ingraham chose Purdue over Arizona, along with a couple other schools.
"The single toughest decision Kyle ever had to make in his life," Corky Ingraham said in 2003, "was choosing any other university over Arizona."
At the time, the Wildcat program was far less stable than it may be today with second-year coach Mike Stoops. The head coach who recruited Ingraham was John Mackovic, who was fired in 2003, just a couple weeks after Arizona was blown out, 59-7, in Ross-Ade Stadium. Ingraham caught a touchdown in that game.
Things have worked out well for Ingraham at Purdue.
After playing as a true freshman in 2003, he caught 51 passes, with seven touchdowns, as a sophomore. He projects to have an even bigger season this year.
"I have no complaints," he said. "I couldn't have wished for anything better."
That said, there will be no mixed emotions when Ingraham returns to the desert later this week.
"Boilermakers all the way," Ingraham said. "No mercy."
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