ST LOUIS – Big Al Ogletree has a story about a pile of manure. If you let someone lead you through it once, it’s a mistake. But follow that person through it again, and you chose to get that mess on the bottom of your shoes.
“Now, you have to choose,” Big Al Ogletree said. “Do I want to go this way? Or do I want to go that way?”
The father of the St. Louis Rams’ second pick in the 2013 NFL Draft sat in the front row of his son’s introductory press conference on Friday. His handheld video recorder captured the scene as Alec Ogletree, a sensational linebacker from Georgia, told a room full of cameras how happy and grateful he is that the Rams deemed him worthy of the first round’s 30th pick.
“It was very exciting, yesterday, to even be a part of the Draft this year,” Alec Ogletree said. “I really want to thank the Rams organization for taking a chance on me.”
A night before, the player who could have been Top-15 selection had plummeted down the draft board, losing approximately $2.5 million as team after team decided he was too risky. His size (6-foot-2, 242-pounds), speed (4.70 40-yard dash) and skills (111 tackles in 10 games as a senior) were desirable. But other issues — a misdemeanor theft charge in 2010; a four-game suspension his senior season that has been linked to a failed drug test; and a DUI arrest the week before the NFL Combine — caused too many questions.
Big Al Ogletree watched his son wrestle with the consequences of his actions as they watched the Draft with an agent.
“I think the reality check really hit him last night, with the waiting process to see people’s names being called,” the father said. “He was dealing with it. I knew in the back of his mind, he was going, ‘Man’ … When I sat down and talked to him, I said, ‘Son, what has happened, has happened. You can’t change that. It’s over and done. If you get the opportunity to get to the NFL — no matter what round, what level — make good on that.’ I’m an old school man. Now you have to sign contracts and all that stuff, but a man’s word is his word. If you give your word that you are going to be the man you told them you are, that you know you are, you need to be that man right now.”
Big Al Ogletree knows about making good on second chances. He had NFL hopes, too. But trouble as a teenager derailed that goal in high school.
“The reason I know how hard it can be to see your dream fall, is because that’s what happened to me,” he said. “I made a bad choice, and did something unfortunate. It didn’t work out for me.”
He was a sophomore when he got in that shoving match with an assistant principal. The adult put hands on him, and he retaliated. The school let him return after his suspension, but football was out of the question.
“It can be taken from you before you realize it,” Big Al Ogletree said.
He did his best to avoid manure after that. He met his wife, Allyson, and had children. Two of the boys were twins, Alec and Alexander (who currently plays fullback at Georgia). The brothers were athletic from the start, and they got a heavy dose of their father’s wisdom as he coached their football teams from elementary to high school. Big Al Ogletree often made the brothers, along with their teammates, recite his six most-important principles.
There have been moments since Alec Ogletree left his home in Newnan, Ga., that his father’s lessons have been forgotten. There have been times, as Big Al Ogletree likes to say, the boy has “fallen off the boat.” But the dad wants to believe this chance with the Rams will not be squandered.
“He righted his ship again,” Big Al Ogletree said as Friday afternoon’s event slowed down. “Now is the opportunity for him to show the Rams did not make a mistake choosing him. The people that will be against him will still be against him. I said, ‘You can’t do nothing about that. But you can do something about you.'”
Alec Ogletree knows what it’s like to get manure on his shoes. Now, he has to want to walk the other way.
You can follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred) and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org