Snohomish's Ogden Out To Catch On In NFL

WICHITA FALLS, Texas - Jeff Ogden was a decent high-school football player, but not good enough to be given a college scholarship.

Ogden ended up walking on at Division I-AA Eastern Washington University and becoming a pretty decent receiver, but not good enough to get drafted by the NFL.

Once again, Ogden is having the last laugh. He's in his second training camp with the Dallas Cowboys and this time he's focusing on moving up the depth chart rather than worrying about making the team.

"I'm taking a more aggressive, more proactive approach to improving the team," Ogden said. "Last year, there were some times where I didn't improve the team. I was just kind of a guy who could fill in. This year, I'm actually trying to make a difference."

In only a week of practices he's impressed Coach Chan Gailey.

"The way he carries himself, his confidence, his hands - every aspect of his game has improved," Gailey said. "He doesn't even look like the same person who first stepped on our field last year."

Ogden was one of 10 players trying to win the final receiver's job last summer. He outlasted the others by showing quick feet and sure hands in practice, then backing it up in preseason games. Ogden caught seven passes for 126 yards.

In the regular season, Ogden contributed mostly on special teams, although he also caught eight passes for 63 yards. His most memorable game was Nov. 22 in Seattle when he caught four passes for 26 yards and ran 12 yards on an end-around while playing in front of friends and family in his home state.

Some would call the 6-foot, 190-pound Ogden an overachiever. It may be more accurate to say people have simply underestimated his abilities.

Ogden has been winning inspirational awards since his high school days in Snohomish. He had a slow start to his college career then broke out as a senior with 57 catches for 1,148 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Ten NFL teams invited him to training camp. He picked Dallas. Receivers coach Dwain Painter already has told Ogden to be prepared to fill any of the five receiver roles in the playbook.

"The reason I'm here is because I can play a few different positions," Ogden said. "That's going to be a burden put on me, but it's one I gladly accept."

Ogden's goal now is to move up to the No. 3 receiver. His experience in Gailey's complicated offense gives him a head start over newcomer James McKnight and rookies Wane McGarity and MarTay Jenkins.

"A lot more comes to me now on the field, where last year I was more into the book, memorizing things," he said. "I'm learning a lot more about how to get open, how to be alone when the ball gets there."

It hasn't taken Gailey long to notice. And the coach's praise is adding to Ogden's confidence.

Thinking back to what Gailey said about him, Ogden smiled proudly and said: "I am a different person."