Linebacker Alec Ogletree has been a staple of the Rams' defense since he was drafted in 2013. Selected at No. 30 overall that year, Ogletree started every game a s a rookie and led the club with 155 tackles.
The Georgia product has led the Rams in tackles three out of his first four seasons — the only one Ogletree didn't was when he suffered a season-ending leg fracture — finishing each of those three years on the franchise's single-season top 10 list.
And now Ogletree has been rewarded for his performance, signing a four-year contract extension on Thursday to keep him with Los Angeles through the 2021 season.
"Alec has evolved into a true leader of our football team and we are excited to sign him to this extension," Rams general manager Les Snead said in a statement. "His teammates voted him as a captain in back-to-back seasons for a reason — and it's not only because of his production, but his character and resiliency. We look forward to Alec helping our team emerge as a consistent winner for years to come."
"It means a lot," Ogletree told therams.com just after signing his extension on Thursday. "It shows the faith that they've had in me, and I really appreciate the opportunity that I have here. I definitely want to see this franchise turn it around, and definitely want to be a part of that. Just grateful and blessed. So can't thank them enough for believing in me when I got drafted out of Georgia, and to this day still believing in me."
One of the club's most productive defenders, the Rams' reasons for wanting to keep Ogletree are readily apparent. But why did Ogletree want to stay with Los Angeles?
"It's the team I started out with and when I came in," Ogletree said. "I knew we weren't having the best of years here, but I definitely wanted to come in and make a change here. With the new coaching staff we've brought in and everybody that's here, I definitely see that happening now. And I definitely wanted to still be a part of that."
The middle linebacker has noticed a renewed energy within the team under head coach Sean McVay.
"Just a new attitude. Everybody's been held accountable — that's something that we needed for sure," Ogletree said. "Everybody gives him that respect — even though he's young. But at the end of the day, we're here to win. And I think he brings that mentality to this team. And he believes in us, and we believe in him."
The Georgia product began his career as a 4-3 weakside linebacker in the club's previous defensive scheme, leading the team in tackles in both 2013 and 2014. In his rookie season, Ogletree returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown — a play that was the longest return by a rookie linebacker in league history and tied the league record for the longest interception return by a linebacker.
Ogletree began the 2015 season playing at a potentially Pro Bowl level, before suffering a season-ending leg fracture against the Cardinals in Week 4. In just four games, Ogletree recorded 55 tackles and 2.0 sacks.
Then in 2016, Ogletree shifted from weakside to middle linebacker, becoming the defensive signal-caller. He led the Rams with 171 tackles last year, which is No. 5 on the single season franchise list and set a new career high.
"I don't really pay attention to it much. It's something to be proud of, I guess you could say," Ogletree said when informed he had three of the Rams' top seasons in tackles. "I've only got three, so hopefully I can break that, and keep that streak up, and do more."
Now in the Rams' 3-4 defense, Ogletree leads the team with 54 total tackles through five games, and has recorded 2.0 sacks. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Thursday he "couldn't be more impressed" with Ogletree.
"No. 1 — besides his athletic ability — his leadership is through the roof. He's a definite leader," Phillips said. "I'm sure he got every vote for captain from everybody on the whole team. He's got that great leadership quality that not a lot of players have. It's just natural with him. And he doesn't go out of his way — it's just the way he is. And players gravitate to him. He's a smart player, too. He can call all the signals on defense, make all the adjustments and all those things — so they look to that kind of guy anyway. And he's got that leadership value."
"I take a lot of pride in it," Ogletree said of being a leader. "When we step out on that field, they're not just looking at me — they're looking at everybody. And so if it's one man that makes a mistake, it's not just him — it's all of us in it together. And you have to have your leaders on the team. Fortunately for me, I guess it kind of came with the position, as far as being a 'Mike' linebacker. But I've always been the type to basically try to lead by example in what I do. And if you love this game as much as I do, it shows in different areas."
Under McVay and in Phillips' defensive scheme, Ogletree felt comfortable re-upping with the Rams for another four years. And while the middle linebacker is staying in the moment, he also acknowledged the big-picture goal that induced him to stay in Los Angeles.
"Just to bring a championship here, at the end of the day," Ogletree said of his goals and expectations "That's what we play this game for, is to win a championship. And I think our goal short-term right now is to win this weekend and go onto the next game. And we'll take it one game at a time.
"But, like I said, [I've] definitely loved the change that's going on around here, and I still want to be a part of that. And that was definitely a big factor into me signing back."