Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Marques Ogden has a rooting interest in this weekend's NFL draft that extends beyond his family, friends and his team. He will be pulling for his former school, Howard University, by hoping cornerback Ronald Bartell is selected in one of the early rounds Saturday.
"He's a guy who will hopefully bring more attention to my alma mater, maybe bring some more players there," Ogden said. "I want Bartell to do well. Hopefully he'll get his chance in the NFL sooner than I did. Hopefully someone will say, 'I don't care where he went to school. He can play.' "
Ronald Bartell is likely to be the first Bison to be selected before the 6th round since 1960. "You have a big transition to make," said fellow Howard alum Marques Douglas.
(Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
Bartell hopes to be chosen as high as the second round, and he's in line to be a football trailblazer for his school. Howard's records in its football media guide show no player from the school being chosen above the sixth round dating from 1960.
Bartell spent two seasons at Howard after playing for two seasons at Central Michigan. Getting to the NFL wasn't his primary concern when he switched schools, but he said he figured if he were good enough as a player, the scouts would find him.
He was right. His size and speed earned him spots on scouting services' lists of prospects before his senior season, and the league's talent evaluators -- as well as agents -- noticed. Bartell said he intensified his training efforts to ready for a jump to the pros after Howard defensive backs coach Ron Bolton, who played for the New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns in the 1970s and early '80s after a college career at Norfolk State, told him last offseason he had the talent to be an NFL player. NFL teams sent their scouts to see Bartell regularly last season.
"We scouted him during the season," said New York Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi, whose club sent a representative to Bartell's workout for NFL scouts at Howard last month. "It wasn't just his pro day. We're on him."
Bartell faces an eye-opening experience when he gets to the NFL, say some of the former Howard players in the league.
"When I got to the NFL, I thought I was ready," said Ogden, who attended St. John's High in the District. "But I wasn't. Strength-wise, I just wasn't. I realized that later. . . . Maryland has a weight room that's like four times the size of ours. That's the big difference. We have good players. We got great coaching. We just don't have the money to put into the program. They have a strength coach there now, but we didn't have one when I was there. I'm a totally different player now than I was when I got to the NFL. At Howard, our football players are just as good as anyone else's. But if you take a player in a program with a strength coach versus one in a program without a strength coach, it's a totally different athlete."
Said San Francisco 49ers defensive end Marques Douglas: "You have a big transition to make. There's a physical part of it, and there's a mental part of it. For me, it was more mental than physical. It was tough as far as dealing with the business end of it. In college, the best guy plays. In the NFL, you have to deal with all the politics of football, who's from what school and who has what kind of contract."
Ogden, the younger brother of Ravens star left tackle Jonathan Ogden, was a sixth-round draft choice by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003. Douglas entered the league in 1999 as an undrafted free agent, signing with the Ravens after a standout college career. Douglas bounced around the league, spending time with the New Orleans Saints, before becoming a starter for the Ravens the past two seasons, and he just signed with the 49ers as an unrestricted free agent. He said he still remembers the sting of being overlooked on draft weekend.
"Draft day was disappointing," Douglas said. "I believed I could play, and I watched all these other people go ahead of me at my position. I would venture to say that 70 percent of them are not in the league today."
Entering the NFL with a small-school chip on your shoulder is not necessarily bad, Douglas said. "That's good for you," he said. "It makes you play harder. It makes you try harder if you want to be known."
Ogden agreed. "When I first got here, guys wanted to pick fights with me," he said. "Not only was I a small-school guy, but I was Jonathan's brother. The attitude a small-school guy has to have is, 'I'm not going to get pushed around.' I see a lot of guys in my draft class, picked in the fourth round or the fifth round, who are already out of the league. And I feel like my career is just getting started.
"Players like me and Marques Douglas and Bartell, we have a lot more upside. We're a lot more raw than guys who played in the big programs. With me, the talent was always there, and Baltimore is finally bringing it out in me. You need to look at the player, and not at the school he's from."
Bartell might not see all the members of his rooting section this weekend, but they'll be out there. Said Douglas, "I'm always hoping our guys do well."