What was supposed to be one of the greatest days in Kevin Ogletree’s life turned out to be one of the most disappointing.
Despite draftniks calling for Ogletree to be picked anywhere between the third and fifth round, the former Holy Cross High School star’s name wasn’t called in the NFL Draft in April.
The party in his St. Albans home was postponed, but a fire was lit in Ogletree’s gut. He took that with him to San Antonio, Texas, where he joined the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie free agent.
“Draft day put a bitter taste in my mouth and I still had that in me,” Ogletree said. “That was just something that helped get me through that time period. That was the hard part.”
Against the odds, Ogletree, a former standout at the University of Virginia, made the Cowboys’ 53-man roster and has a chance to make his NFL debut Sunday when Dallas opens the season on the road against Tampa Bay because of an injury to receiver Miles Austin.
“I’m just trying to be active,” Ogletree said. “I want to make myself valuable so there’s no question on that day when we pick the 45 guys to suit up. That’s the goal and that just reminds me I always have to be working, always be on top of my game.”
Through a connection with Cowboys tight ends Coach John Garrett, who coached Ogletree at Virginia, Ogletree got an opportunity to showcase his skills at the Dallas training camp and he impressed right away with his versatility, speed and big-play ability.
He had seven catches for 87 yards and a pair of touchdowns in four preseason games, also averaging 28.4 yards on five kickoff returns.
“He runs good routes,” Dallas Coach Wade Phillips said. “The guy has got a lot of good things going for him, and he has been consistent with it. We said it OTAs, ‘This guy, wow, this guy looks good.’”
After another solid performance in a 35-31 victory against Minnesota in the Cowboys’ final preseason game Friday, Ogletree sealed his fate, earning the fifth receiver spot.
“It was a relief,” Ogletree said. “It took a little bit off of my shoulders. It’s still a grind and I’m looking forward to the season.”
While Ogletree took the news in stride, when word spread back to his alma mater, longtime Holy Cross Coach Tom Pugh was absolutely ecstatic.
“I felt like I made it,” Pugh joked. “Everyone here was on pins and needles. When I saw it come through I called him and he was thrilled.”
Ogletree might have opened eyes in Dallas, where he has earned the nickname “KO,” a slight variation from the initials of another former Cowboys receiver, but Pugh isn’t surprised at what his former player has done.
“He did a lot of things for them that he did here,” he said.
As a senior at Holy Cross, Ogletree scored 23 touchdowns, including 19 receptions, falling one shy of the state record, to lead the Knights to the CHSFL ‘AA’ championship. He scored three touchdowns in the title game despite a fractured wrist. He was also a starter on the Knights’ basketball team.
Ogletree went on to play for Al Groh at the University of Virginia, where he caught passes from 12 different quarterbacks in his college career, yet he had a pair of 50-catch seasons and led Virginia in receiving last season with 58 catches for 723 yards and five touchdowns.
After fighting off the initial disappointment from not being drafted, Ogletree is now preparing to face Tampa Bay Sunday and serves as a role model to the current Holy Cross players. He could be the first football player from the Queens school to play in the NFL since Chris McKenzie stepped on the field, albeit briefly, for the Houston Texans in 2005-06.
“I’m the kid here from Queens with all the things stacked against him still trying to live out his dreams,” Ogletree said. “It happens and I’m just trying to ride it out.”
Reach Dylan Butler at email@example.com.
©2009 Community News Group
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