DALLAS From 5,000 feet, the new home of the Dallas Cowboys, under construction in Arlington, looks like a giant half apricot with shiny retractable roof flaps. A Texan sitting nearby on the flight to Dallas said they're asking $16,000 just for the rights to purchase a season ticket.
In Texas, football remains the state religion. Can't visit Texas without talking football.
In these parts, you'd be hard-pressed to find a high school without a stadium that sits 15,000 to 20,000 fans. Property taxes put to priority, is how folks in these parts see it.
"Whenever my friends from Utah come out for a visit, I show them where our high schools play and tell them, 'Now, this is real football,"' said Mark Ogletree, whose son Brandon signed to play with BYU in 2006 out of McKinney, a Dallas suburb 30 miles north.
On Saturday, Evan Jacobson, father of Cougar receiver McKay Jacobson, took me to see legendary Carroll Southlake Stadium, where fans pay a license fee of hundreds of dollars for the rights to buy $25 seats to see the famed Dragons. I inspected Carroll's athletic fieldhouse, locker rooms and indoor practice facility. That's right, indoor facility. Spring football starts soon here for high schools.
Ogletree, a 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker, earned first team all-state honors and was the regional 5A defensive player of the year in 2005. Nearby, BYU plucked Carroll High receiver McKay Jacobson from a 2005 state championship team. BYU linebacker Dustin Gabriel played at nearby Allen High, and safety Corby Hodgkiss played at Irving High.
Ogletree is currently in the final months of an LDS mission to Chile, where he was just named assistant to the mission president. He is due back in August and will redshirt this coming season to regain his conditioning.
"Coaches told him to return home and hang around the family for a few weeks before coming out to Provo. By then, practice will have already started," said his father. "That'll give him a chance for us to take him to Texas barbeque and fatten him up a little."
Jacobson, who just entered his second year on a mission to Japan, enrolled at BYU in January 2006 and hosted Ogletree on a recruiting visit in January of that year. Ogletree joined half a dozen recruits committing to the Cougars that first month after defeating Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
That recruiting class could be considered the foundation of Bronco Mendenhall's game plan so far, a blueprint of what he's looking for. Many in that recruiting class, which included starting QB Max Hall, are currently on missions, like Jacobson, Ogletree, RB Mike Hague, DB Robbie Bucker, TE Braden Hansen and DL Romney Fuga.
The Ogletrees have eight children, and three of their daughters currently participate on McKinney sports teams, including twins who made the varsity basketball team as sophomores and an older daughter who is a pole vaulter.
Saturday night, Ogletree said half his LDS ward in McKinney planned on attending the BYU-TCU basketball game.
In Chile, Elder Ogletree has been entrenched in mission work and has been successful wherever he's worked, said his father. But like Austin Collie, who had a camera stolen right out of his hands in Argentina, Ogletree has encountered some scary situations, underscoring how dangerous missions can be.
On one occasion, Ogletree was ill and had several missionaries come and go out of his apartment as they tried to find some medication. A would-be burglar was casing the apartment, waiting for the elders to leave for the day. When several missionaries left, he apparently thought the apartment was empty and sneaked in, only to find a surprised Ogletree standing there. The burglar then ran away.
Another time, Ogletree had his watch stolen right off his arm and the intruder ran away. A few days later at the local LDS services, a Chilean policeman came to the church house and asked for Ogletree. Not knowing what was wanted, Ogletree went outside with the officer, who asked if he was the one who had his watch stolen. Ogletree said he was.
The policeman said he knew who had taken it and asked if he'd accompany him to help catch the man. Ogletree went along. The policeman found the man and started beating the thief, demanding he return the watch and apologize. The man refused, so to Ogletree's surprise, the policeman kept beating the man until he apologized. Chilean justice.
On another occasion, after being harassed for most of a day by a gang that followed Ogletree and his companion, pelting them with bottles, rocks and insults, the former linebacker had enough. He dropped his books, turned and approached the gang, who continued threatening him as he approached. He put one of them down. The others ran away.
"He loves every minute of his mission," said his father. "He doesn't want to come home. Now that he's traveling around the mission and eating with the mission president, he'll probably start gaining some of his weight back, I hope."
Home of BYU starters Michael Reed, David Nixon and Hodgkiss, along with Jacobson and Ogletree.
And the 1986 Amarillo Chamber of Commerce Texas Player of the Year Ty Detmer.What a country.