For undrafted wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, the first day of his first mini-camp went a step further — a big step further.
In the middle of the afternoon session, Ogletree ran a route in skeleton passing drills — no defense, no blocking assignments … just run and catch. When he cut toward the sideline, he nearly steamrolled his new boss, Jerry Jones, who was standing on the side of the practice field.
"I had just ran a route near the sideline, and Jerry Jones called me over, and said, ‘meet Michael Irvin,'" Ogletree said. "I was like ‘wow.' I just told Michael Irvin how much of a pleasure it was to meet him, and tried to take any advice he had. That was huge, and meant a lot to me, and kind of put everything in perspective. It kind of slapped me in the face a little and told me where I was."
Right then, without any planning by Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, the 6-foot, 196-pound Ogletree got a personal tutoring session from one of the greatest receivers in Cowboys history.
"He was being personal when he was talking to me," Ogletree said. "I don't know what he saw, but he was telling me some personal things, and also some technique stuff … ‘get this right, get that right' — it was all instrumental to me."
Ogletree will try to parlay that advice from Irvin — along with the skill he developed as the University of Virginia's leading receiver in two of the last three years — into a roster spot with the Cowboys.
In three seasons at UVA, he caught 117 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. But despite his reputation as a smart, instinctive player with exceptional hands, he was considered a borderline prospect to get drafted, in part because of his injury history — he redshirted the 2007 season after tearing his ACL in his left knee, and has a history of wrist injuries.
"I was expecting to get drafted, I hoped to get drafted, I thought I deserved to get drafted," Ogletree said. "But that part was over, and I knew wherever I was going, I was going to have to make a team and prove myself." (Kevin Ogltree/Getty Images)
As the NFL Draft crept into the later rounds, Ogletree got a call from Dallas tight ends coach John Garrett.
"I had a prior relationship with him," Ogletree said. "He coached at Virginia — so he told me that if things didn't go the way I thought they would, then make sure I come here."
While Ogletree was disappointed that he didn't get drafted, he said he has no need to use the apparent snub as motivation.
"I don't think I needed that," he said. "I knew wherever I was going to go, I was going to try to make an impact and play my butt off for whoever it was. It's a business, and you try to help a big organization win, and when you know your job is on the line every day, it's kind of hard not to give it all you've got."
Ogletree has taken the unique track to Dallas that includes stops in not one but two areas rich with fans of NFC East rivals: he gup in New York Giants country in Queens, N.Y., and played his college ball in Charlottesville, Va. — a.k.a. Washington Redskins country. Still, he said he didn't grow up hating the Cowboys.
"I don't think I hated them — there isn't a team in the NFL I hated," he said. "There's teams in the NBA I hate, and a couple of baseball teams I hate, but I don't think … actually, I loved the Jets, and I didn't like the Patriots at all because I was a Jets fan.
"But I've been watching the Cowboys forever. Michael Irvin — he's one of the first people you think about when you think of the Cowboys, and going from that to talking to him on the field … it made me just want to get close to him, and I know anywhere close to him is pretty good."
Ogletree said offensive coordinator Jason Garrett even forgave the rookie wideout for breakout out of the wide receivers rotation for a second brief session with Irvin.
"Coach Jason said ‘stay away from that guy — he doesn't know what he's talking about.'" Ogletree said. "They were interested in me getting some more reps in there, too, but they weren't worried about Michael giving me a couple of pointers.
"Most people don't get a chance to get advice from a Hall of Famer. I did, and I listened to everything he said. Now I just need to take some of what he said and put it to use on the field."