Sam Ingram Finds His Voice on the Gridiron and on Canvas


You wouldn’t know it by looking at his 6-foot-1-inch tall, muscle-bound 270-pound-frame of a center for the Mississippi College Choctaw football team but Sam Ingram with his thick jawline and beard has always considered himself to be a shy person. 

Art and football have proved to be outlets for him to let his personality shine and connect to other people.

His mother, Shea Ingram, said her son, like her, has always used things like the arts and physical activity as a conduit for connection and expression.

“Like me, he has to have an outlet,” she said. “Whether it is art or music or football or lifting weights, he has always been creative in more ways than just art. He has always been so curious and anything that sparks his imagination can become one of those outlets.”

Sam could be described as a renaissance man. The Mississippi College senior is studying biology and medical sciences. He plays on the football team like he did at Holmes Community College before and under Tim Shramek at Germantown High School before that. In his free time, what little he can scrape together between schoolwork, practice and workouts, he paints on commission to help pay for school.

Sam said his art was his first outlet. He remembers second grade was the first time someone saw a drawing of his and complimented him. He said it was a great way to make friends and soon he was filling requests. He even had a brief career as a tattoo artist, using a sharpie and marker on skin.

“I think the teachers put an end to that pretty quick, but it was fun while it lasted,” Sam said.

He carried those skills into high school art classes where he learned to connect to a variety of mediums and found he had something he was exceptional at.

It was through school that Sam said he found another passion, football, in the eighth grade. Shramek said that Sam was an unbelievable talent on and off the field.

“He is just a really good player and a great kid and obviously one of the most talented artists around,” Shramek said. “Just a phenomenal person from a phenomenal family.”

Shramek said that he is an admirer of Sam’s art as well.

Sam said his attraction to football is pretty simple.

“Football, like any team sport, is being a part of something that is bigger than yourself to achieve a common goal,” Sam said. “I love the camaraderie. Through football, I have made a lot of close friends and met a lot of great people as well as meeting some coaches that have changed my life forever.”

Sam has played football at the high school and junior college level and hopes to play one season this coming fall at Mississippi College. Over his career, he has played on the offensive line and specialized as a center. He has also been on kickoff return teams.

While football has been a path through school, Sam helps pay for his tuition with the proceeds from his art business. Sam does his own paintings that he posts for sale on his social media accounts, specifically his Instagram, @sam_ryan_studios. 

His medium is acrylic paint on wood. His works are of famous people who inspire him. Those include figures such as President John F. Kennedy and a pen drawing of the late basketball superstar Kobe Bryant who he did by arranging hundreds of little 24s in his likeness.

Another inspiring figure Sam has rendered in his own style is the famed Mexican portrait painter Frida Kahlo who he painted on an old dorm room door from the 1990s that he found. The door has its own character as it was old and cracked and marked up with notes and graffiti by the many students who had lived behind it.

Sam painted Kahlo over most of it and had to fill some cracks but all the white space in his painting has the character of that old door that could tell countless stories.

Most of Sam’s drawings are of famous musicians. He completed a series of commissions recently for the Town of Ripley. His art includes tributes to the greats such as Dolly Parton and Jimi Hendrix and recently decease favorites of Ingram’s like rapper Juice Wrld who died in 2019. Sam said he feels like creating paintings of people is his way to show his respect for people who have inspired him.

“I feel like I need to do it out of respect,” Sam said. “It is a great way to create a memory of them and keep it with me.” 

Sometimes his work creates a memory or meaning for someone else, Sam said. Patty Wolf, a realtor who also works with early childhood development at St. Andrews Episcopal School, recently commissioned a picture of her granddaughter, Caroline Wolf, for her son, Connor Wolf.

“It was so sweet to watch her bend down and give it a look,” Wolf said. “Caroline and my son love it, and it looks so good on the wall in his new house.”

Patty said she was so pleased with the painting that she is contemplating having an “Ingram” commissioned of all future grandchildren.

“I just love his style,” Wolf said. “It is very nontraditional and he uses lots of colors.”

Wolf said she found Sam’s art through Shea, who is an artist in her own right. Shea and her husband, Tony Ingram, make frames from rare or reclaimed wood. Tony does the carpentry to Shea’s vision and design and further work that is needed such as staining or distressing the wood is done by Shea.

Shea said the heavy frames bring their own personality and are a great way to display a beloved family picture but the enterprise started from necessity. Shea said she wanted a way to make money and run a business from her home while her husband worked as an ABC Special Agent. She was taking care of two children, Sam and his older brother, Gray.

“I wanted something where I could stay home and be with my babies during the day,” Shea said. “I needed to find something I could do in my backyard.”

Now their frame business is almost 25 years old. Even Shramek has what he called a “bunch of his mama’s frames” at the house.

Shea said she is proud of her boys and the different paths they have taken. Gray is a John Deere Tractor Technician. She said she never pushed her boys to do anything they didn’t want to do. With Sam, she she said she is proud of the way her shy little boy found an outlet in art and sports.

“Sam is a big ole boy with a real tender heart,” Shea said. “To a lot of people say he is a giant but he is super, super shy. I remember teachers saying they couldn’t get much more out of him than a yes or no shake of his head in class. Football really opened a door for him emotionally and physically and it was about that time that he really started to hone his craft in art. I think the encouragement from those two things really helped him come out of his shell.”