Kevin Ogletree, a wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, had eight receptions and two touchdowns in the Wednesday, September 5 NFL opening game against the Super Bowl champion Giants. He joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2009 and has battled for a starting receiver spot ever since.
Before that he played for Virginia, where he finished his degree in just three- and-a-half years.
And before that, he played in Bayside at Holy Cross High School. The Queens native played four seasons with the Knights where he not only broke a nearly 15-year-old record, but was academically fit, his former coach, Tom Pugh said.
During his four years at the all-boys Catholic school, Ogletree was a natural, yet quiet, leader.
“[He] knew how to conduct himself as a gentleman,” said Pugh. “He led by example…never ‘rah-rah’”
In his senior year alone Ogletree had 67 receptions and 21 touchdowns. This broke a record set by Carl Mackey (son of Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey), who had 58 receptions in a season in the early 1990s.
“Kevin was a guy who worked after practice, before practice,” Pugh said. “That was the good thing about him.”
The record-breaking receiver with high SAT scores promised his grandparents that he would continue his education and enrolled at the University of Virginia.
There he played under former Jets defensive coordinator Al Groh for three of his four years at the school.
Ogletree was a natural athlete, Groh said, and because of that, he was able to thrive in his first two years, before being sidelined with a knee injury during his junior year. He was able return the following year, but had to work back toward his normal abilities.
Ogletree could not be reached for this story.
At Virginia, he caught the eye of tight end coach John Garrett, who would move on to join the Cowboys’ staff. Groh and Pugh both said Ogletree’s talent and abilities caught Garrett’s eye — and would pay off for the young receiver in a big way.
He was picked up by the Cowboys as a free agent in 2009 after an impressive show at training camp. From 2009 to 2011, however, he saw little playing time — usually when starting receivers were injured. Despite this, Ogletree caught the first touchdown at Cowboys Stadium, albeit in preseason.
Life off the field was hit with tragedy earlier this year when his brother, Calvin, was shot outside of his car rental business in St. Albans. Calvin, it has been reported, is still in critical condition months later.
Facing elimination from the roster after three disappointing, sub-par seasons, Ogletree tightened up his training program this off-season, said Pugh, who still regularly speaks with his former player through text messages.
This included losing weight and working out even harder, something that was always part of Ogletree’s ethic, Pugh said.
“He really pushed himself this year,” he said.
Groh, now a defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, said Ogletree’s performance against the Giants earlier this month was the best he had ever seen the 6’1” receiver play.
“He looked the most polished I’ve ever seen him,”
After his break-out performance in the 2012 season opener, Ogletree told reporters he was inspired to do well for his brother, whom he visited while in town. When Ogletree took the field at MetLife Stadium last week, Pugh — an admitted Giants fan — didn’t focus on the game. Instead, he watched the player he saw grow into the pro he is working to become.
“I was watching Kevin,” Pugh said. “I root for my guys.”