Alec Ogletree has more to prove than ability

“I didn’t want to make that call,” Ogletree said Thursday. “It was tough for me to do that. That was my main concern, not the draft or anything else. It was calling my mom and having to break bad news to her again, especially after some of the stuff I had already done.”

This is about growing up. This is about the guessing games that NFL scouts and general managers have to play.

Nobody questions Alec Ogletree’s talent and ability to play football. He is the best athlete and arguably the best player coming out of Georgia — yes, even ahead of Jarvis Jones. He could be top 10 in the draft. He has the speed that teams crave. He can play multiple positions and in multiple situations. That’s assuming he gives himself a chance.

We can look at an MRI of Jones’ spine, diagnose stenosis and seek feedback from doctors on whether there’s a risk in him playing football. But with Ogletree, the issues don’t show up on a picture, unless it’s a police mugshot.

As a freshman, he stole another student’s scooter helmet. Conclusion: The dumb mistakes of youth. There was the four-game suspension as a junior for multiple failed drug tests. Conclusion: Really dumb and, in combination with the previous incident, a reason to start wondering about his future.

Then came last month’s DUI in Arizona. It was two weeks before the scouting combine. Conclusion: Red flags.

Ogletree and his agent, Atlanta’s Pat Dye Jr., have had to do some damage control since the DUI. The incidents have been brought up in every media interview and, more important, at every team interview at the scouting combine. All 32 teams were represented at Georgia’s “Pro Day” on Thursday. Many will have Ogletree in for private workouts in the coming days.

“You just have to be truthful. What you’ve done is already out there,” he said. “I’m not that guy I’m being portrayed to be. I’m a good person. I come from a good home. I just made a mistake, and I have to learn from it.”

College programs can be protective cocoons for athletes. They are given the structure of classes, tutoring sessions and practices. They also don’t have seven-digit salaries to play with.

But professional sports alleviates them from academic mandates, provides them with more freedom and a lot of money to spend during that freedom. Hence, the worry surrounding Ogletree.

He has a few things going for him. He’s really good — difference-maker kind of good. He also has Dye, long among the most credible of agents. Dye has a reputation for not taking on problem clients. (His current roster of 70 include the Falcons’ Julio Jones.) Before meeting with Ogletree, Dye spoke to some of his former Georgia teammates and coaches and felt comfortable in pursuing working with him.

“Teams have asked questions ranging from, ‘Does he have a problem’ to, ‘What was he thinking?’” Dye said. “But they have to ask. Does it keep him from being a top-10 pick? Maybe. Does it keep him from being a top-20 pick? I don’t think so.”

Put it this way: At least 10 teams already have private workouts or visits set up with Ogletree, including the Falcons. Others: New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Buffalo.

Olgetree was arrested late Saturday, Feb. 9. He told Dye on Tuesday. The two spoke again the next day, and Dye stressed the need to get ahead of the story, come clean publicly and deal with the initial fallout before the combine the following week. “We didn’t want this news to be broken in a private interview with a team,” Dye said.

But first, Ogletree had to tell his mother. He balked. Her birthday was on that Thursday, Valentine’s Day.

Dye again: “He said, ‘I can’t tell her the night before her birthday. I can’t tell her on her birthday.’ He knew she was going to be devastated.”

Alec finally phoned Allyson Ogletree on Feb. 16, a full week after the arrest, even then at Dye’s urging. A statement was released to the media that evening.

“She said still supported me, and she always would,” Ogletree said. “But she was hurt. I knew she would be.”

Ogletree has more team interviews coming up.

“I want to get in there, get to know the coaches more, and I’m sure they want to get to know me better,” he said.

He is saying all the right things. The question is whether he does all the right things. It’s the question nobody can answer right now.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.