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Provo • As another grueling practice ends, senior middle linebacker Brandon Ogletree picks up his 14-month-old son, Luke, tosses him on his shoulders, and playfully jogs around BYU's indoor practice facility. Wife and mother, Amanda, looks at the pair with an approving smile.
Hard to imagine it now, but Ogletree is widely referred to as the Cougars' craziest football player in several years. He is half-madman, half-psycho, and as mean as they come when he steps between the lines, teammates say.
"Man, that guy, there is only one speed to him," says BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. "Whatever 10 is, he is a little bit past 10. He's full-go all the time, and he's kind of mad at you most of the time, too, which is good."
Ogletree will play his second-to-last game as a Cougar on Saturday when BYU (6-5) travels to Las Cruces to take on 1-9 New Mexico State, and he vows to play with every ounce of energy he can muster, just as he has the past 44 games of his standout career. The balding, undersized father is the unquestioned heart and soul of the nation's No. 3-ranked defense, BYU's version of Johnny Football due to his Texas upbringing, his ferocious play and his intense love for the game.
"I live and breathe football, man, I love it," said Ogletree, who leads the team with 82 tackles. "I grew up around it. I grew up with a passion for it. It is kind of my thing. I am definitely going to miss playing. I am trying to leave it all out there these last few games, and have fun."
Fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy said Ogletree's intensity on the field, and mellowness off of it, is something to behold.
"On the field, he is just crazy. He will run through a brick wall if you want him to," Van Noy said. "He will do anything it takes to bring a guy down, whether it is hit him hard or scratch and crawl his way to the tackle. Off the field, he's genuine, kind of a quiet little giant. He's got little-man syndrome a little bit. He's a fun character to be around."
Like former quarterback John Beck, Ogletree is one of those guys who was destined to play football for BYU. He grew up in McKinney, Texas, watching BYU football with his parents, Mark and Janie, who were both BYU graduates. Several schools wanted him, but there was no doubting where he would end up.
"I was always brought up around the BYU lore LaVell Edwards Stadium and all that," he said. "Every Saturday, my dad and I would find the BYU game on whatever channel it was on. It has always been a dream of mine to play here."
That Ogletree plays with such rage and abandon on Saturdays now is somewhat surprising, considering he was the only boy in a family of seven sisters. Instead of playing backyard football, he and his father would divvy up the sisters, who are all excellent athletes, and play basketball in the driveway.
"It wasn't like I grew up in a super girlie household," he said. "They all played sports and stuff. Me and my dad were definitely close, though. When all the estrogen would boil up in the house, we would have to stick together."
And a passion for football BYU football became their glue.
BYU at New Mexico State
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Internet • ESPN3
Brandon Ogletree file
• Team captain leads the nation's No. 3 overall defense with 82 tackles
• Named to the All-Independent Midseason First Team
• Three-year starter has three career interceptions, three forced fumbles