Ogletree Awaits NFL Draft
A ‘Tree’ about to blossom
by CHRIS GOLTERMANN
The last two weeks, Alec Ogletree has felt right at home again back in Newnan. A trip to the car wash. The occasional ride to his former high school to take a remote-control car for a quiet spin. Reconnecting with old friends.
It’s much different surroundings than the last four months, which have taken the former Georgia linebacker to all corners of the country during a whirlwind tour that’s brought both accolades and criticism to the one-time Cougar All-State defender better known locally as “Tree.”
Tonight, though, when he sits down in front of his television with family and friends, Ogletree expects a lifelong dream to become a reality.
He’s on the verge of becoming a professional football player.
When the 2013 NFL Draft starts with the first round at 8 p.m., parents Al and Allyson expect to hear their son’s name before a camera crew from NFL Network finally leave their living room tonight.
“It’s been an exciting time. I’m just trying to stay in the moment,” said Alec just more than 24 hours prior to tonight’s draft, having made the decision to leave Georgia early following his junior year. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. My mom and dad, they’re both really excited.”
The Ogletrees won’t be in the “Green Room” behind the curtain in New York City tonight. Instead, they will celebrate the moment together here at home with the NFL Network expected to arrive in town tonight.
“I’m going to be here with my family and some friends,” he said. “Just share in the moment. They’re a big part of this.”
Since declaring for the draft moments after the Bulldogs completed their Capital One Bowl victory, Ogletree has been a sure first-round candidate. Most analysts have the underclassman as the No. 1 prospect at inside linebacker, just ahead of Notre Dame’s Manti Teo.
“It took awhile,” Alec said of the decision to turn pro. “I talked with a lot of coaches, my parents to get some ideas about it. They all felt like it was the right decision.”
He could also be one of three former high school players from Coweta County to hear their name over the next three days. Both wide receiver and former teammate Alan Bonner (Jacksonville State, Newnan) as well as offensive lineman Kyle Wilborn (Troy, The Heritage School) have earned the interest of NFL scouts after playing in postseason All-Star Games as seniors.
Ogletree, however, expects to be front and center tonight with a chance to become the first player from the county selected in the first round since another linebacker that played at rival East Coweta — Keith Brooking —was the 12th pick of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
Despite missing four games last fall, Ogletree led Georgia with 111 tackles while leading the Bulldogs during the final six games, including the SEC Championship against Alabama.
A trip to this year’s NFL Combine, however, came shortly after being charged for DUI following an arrest while training for the draft in Arizona. It was the third off-the-field incident since high school graduation, the first two coming in Athens that resulted in one- and four-game suspensions.
“I’ve learned you can be loved one day and hated the next,” said Ogletree, who has called himself “a good person at heart. You just have to do your part. People are gonna say whatever they’re gonna think. The biggest thing is, just be who I am and let them see who I really am as a person, and let the rest take care of itself.”
For some teams, it may have been strike three. Others remain unswayed in a year where there may be a dropoff in talent at inside linebacker after Ogletree and Teo. Both Chicago and Baltimore – who lost All-Pro talents in the offseason — may be among those interested. Mock drafts have him going as high as No. 12 overall to San Diego.
Four years ago, Ogletree was being persuaded to sign with colleges. This year he’s been trying to sell himself to teams.
At the combine, the 6-2, 242-pound linebacker ran a time of 4.68 in the 40-yard dash while bench pressing 240 pounds consecutively 20 times.
There’s been more than a few, enough to earn Alec as many frequent flyer miles as a traveling salesman while training for the combine and Georgia’s Pro Day.
In Chicago, he met with former Bears linebacker Mike Singletary, now an assistant with the Minnesota Vikings. In Denver, he spoke one-on-one with Hall-of-Fame quarterback and current Broncos Team President John Elway.
“Just meeting Hall-of-Fame players, guys I’ve seen playing on TV,” he said. “To be sitting in the locker room with them, it’s been a blessing to be in this position. It’s been exciting getting to visit all these different places.”
Ogletree even found himself riding down Hollywood Boulevard while in Los Angeles during a trip where he filmed a recent segment for ESPN’s Sport Science series. While there, one of his tackles was measured to have an impact force of 1,901.15 pounds.
He hasn’t been lost in the moment either. Alec worked out at Athlete’s Performance in Arizona, which produced 14 first-rounders in 2011 and 2012, including last year’s No. 1 pick, quarterback Andrew Luck.
“I just worked on my strength as far as coming off different blocks,” he said.
Wherever he lands, Alec may be expecting a few changes. They’ll include the Ogletree twins heading in separate directions after playing together since youth league teams through college. Brother Zander, a promising fullback, was unable to continue his career at Georgia for what the school referred to as “medical reasons.”
He is expected to continue classes while on track to graduate.
“We haven’t really talked about it too much,” said Alec. “It’s just that the two of us are going in separate directions now. It’ll be different at first. But I’m sure we’ll both be OK.”