How Josh Oglesby became a 2-sport athlete at Arkansas
FAYETTEVILLE — When Arkansas recruited Xavier Kelly out of the transfer portal last offseason, it ended up landing a pair of players.
Not only did the former four-star defensive tackle from Clemson commit to the Razorbacks, but his father also tipped off the coaching staff about a speedy running back already on campus as a sprinter for the track team: Josh Oglesby.
Like the script of a Disney Channel original movie, it turned out that Kelly’s dad, Will, and Oglesby’s dad, John, played high school football together in Detroit, so naturally it came up during the recruiting process for Kelly.
Running backs coach Jimmy Smith was immediately intrigued and wanted to see how Oglesby’s track speed translated to the gridiron, so he pulled up his tape at Katy High in Texas.
“I said we’d like to get to know him a little better if he’s already on campus and he can run a 10.3, it can’t hurt nothing,” Smith said. “I watched his film and he was running into people. He wasn’t scared. He was a tough guy. I couldn’t see his exact size, but I knew he was tough.”
That got his foot in the door and gave him an opportunity to finally pursue his college football dream, which seemingly ended when he decommitted from BYU and opted instead to run track at national powerhouse Arkansas.
After teasing the move on Twitter last February, Oglesby suited up for the football team for the first time during fall camp leading up to last season.
“It was definitely something that was already in my mind,” Oglesby said. “Football was always my first love, so when I was over on the track team, I already had it in my mind that I wanted to come over to football.”
Once on the gridiron, Oglesby became a common name drop in specialist package discussions. The All-American sprinter found himself in the mix immediately, despite being listed at just 5-foot-8, 175 pounds.
His toughness and quick burst paired with a championship-level work ethic made him a favorite among coaches, but his 2020 campaign ended as quickly as it started after Oglesby suffered a foot injury in fall camp.
“It was something that was hard mentally because I was trying to figure it out,” Oglesby said. “I was new to the team and I knew I wanted to contribute, so it was frustrating in that aspect.
“I did everything that I could to get back as fast as possible, and I did that, so I was able to go through spring and it was a very great spring for me. I just stayed in the rehab, I just stayed in the training room and did everything that I can do every day. Didn’t miss a day. In there religiously. It was something that was important to me, to get back as fast as I could.”
Now back to full strength, Oglesby is once again in the thick of things at running back. The Razorbacks have a definite starter in Trelon Smith, but their search for a No. 2 guy is one of the top position battles in camp.
Because of his size and lack of experience, Oglesby could just be a specialty-type back, but Jimmy Smith said fellow candidates Dominique Johnson, AJ Green and Raheim “Rocket” Sanders also have role player-like qualities so far.
Speaking to the media after Monday’s practice, teammate Trelon Smith indicated he believed Oglesby could be a contributor in 2021.
“With him just being back and recovering from his injury, I feel like he’s going to make a lot of noise this year,” Trelon Smith said. “(He has) a lot of speed and I feel we need that in the backfield. He also can catch out of the backfield. I feel we can use him in the slot position, as well. He can do a lot for us. He’s a really good athlete.”
Being a “really good athlete” is how Oglesby ended up at Arkansas in the first place, as he was originally recruited to run for one of the country’s premier track programs.
As a freshman in 2019, he was the opening leg of the Razorbacks’ 4x100-meter relay team that finished fourth at the NCAA Indoor Championships, earning him first-team All-America honors. Oglesby has also been clocked at 6.74 seconds in the 60-meter dash, which is tied for the 10th fastest time in UA history.
His time on the track is far from over, as Oglesby said he plans to continue being a dual-sport athlete at Arkansas.
“It's not easy, but it's something I wanted to take on,” Oglesby said. “I knew it was something not a lot of guys can do, and I felt like it would give me an advantage on the football field, so I embraced it.”
Arguably the biggest of those advantages presents itself in a non-physical form. A member of Arkansas’ men’s track program that captured an SEC triple crown last year, Oglesby knows what it takes to compete - and win - at the highest level.
“Just as far as the mindset, I'm used to winning here,” Oglesby said. “That's something we're bringing back here on the football side. My mentality is we want to win, and on the track, that's what we do. We win. So that's the same thing we want to do on the football field. I'm just bringing that same mentality over.”