Through his first three seasons in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree had caught 25 passes for 294 yards and exactly zero touchdowns. But the former Virginia star blew it up against the defending world champion New York Giants in the NFL's 2012 season opener, catching eight balls for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
With the Giants' depleted secondary focusing on Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, and with Giants star receiver Victor Cruz dropping pass after pass from Eli Manning, Ogletree was the undrafted star of the evening, making the difference in Dallas' 24-17 victory.
It was especially sweet for Ogletree to do his thing at a new level at MetLife Stadium, because the fourth-year player was born in New York City. He was able to visit his brother Calvin, owner of a car rental shop in Queens, who was shot in the head by gunmen on bicycles in January. Calvin Ogletree is recovering, but the case remains unsolved.
"I felt very good when I woke up this morning," Ogletree said on Wednesday. "I got to go see my brother. Really good vibes. I think about him all the time. He's a big inspiration in my life."
Targeted 11 times in the game, Ogletree nearly caught a third touchdown pass from Romo late in the third quarter, but the two just missed the connection in the end zone. Ogletree also caught a 13-yard pass from Romo on third-and-12 at the two-minute warning that allowed the Cowboys to run out the clock at the end.
"A huge emphasis for us was big plays," Ogletree said. "I don't want the focus to be on me too much, but I am very, very humbled and appreciative of how we played today."
When Austin went through much of the preseason with a hamstring injury, Ogletree impressed coaches enough to grab the pole position for the team's third receiver position.
"We're going to create a competitive situation," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said in early August, when Austin's hamstring was a concern. "Kevin's going to get the first ones when Miles is out, but Dwayne Harris is right there, Andre Holmes is right there and some of the other guys who've been here. We want to give them a chance to play early on in training camp and early in the preseason games to see how they can handle it."
Ogletree tied for the team's preseason lead with 10 catches and his 147 receiving yards led the Cowboys. He had visited the Giants in March as a free agent in March, but resigned with Dallas, inking a one-year, $640,000 contract on March 16.
Safe to say that the Cowboys are happy with that bargain after Wednesday night — and the Giants, who were beset by Cruz's drops and Martellus Bennett's route indifference, might be wondering what they missed.
"I'm close to home, so it's a good feeling," Ogletree said. "But Dallas is my home now."