Texas A&M offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi has always been economical with his words in interviews.
The Allen product stayed true to form at the NFL Combine in February during a session with reporters, one of whom asked if Ogbuehi opened up more to the NFL teams considering drafting him.
“Yeah, I do,” Ogbuehi said, unintentionally drawing chuckles at the three-word response.
“I’m a simple person,” he said in a phone interview this week as he prepared to travel to Chicago for Thursday night’s draft.
The last few months leading up to the much-hyped event haven’t been as straightforward. Ogbuehi (Oh-BWAY-hee) was projected as a first-round pick by the NFL Draft Advisory Board after his junior season in 2013.
But he returned to school for his senior season, encouraged in part by A&M paying the premium, reportedly costing more than $50,000, for loss-of-value insurance. He then tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in the third quarter of his final collegiate game — the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 29 in Memphis.
The 6-5, 305-pounder hasn’t been able to work out for teams, and it’s uncertain if he’ll be healthy by the start of training camp in July. There is no consensus on if Ogbuehi remains a first-round pick or if he’ll hear his name called Friday, the draft’s second day.
He’ll be in attendance, regardless, Thursday, along with his parents, who were born in Nigeria before building a life in North Texas, and his brother and sisters.
The insurance purchased for him by A&M, which several other programs have done for their star players, is intended to offer protection if an injury leads to a significant drop in his draft position. But cashing in on that policy is not guaranteed. No such claim has ever been paid out, according to industry experts.
“I really just try to focus on getting my knee better,” said Ogbuehi, who graduated last August. “Anything can happen, but I expect to go in the first round.”
The details of Ogbuehi’s loss-of-value policy have not been made public, so it’s unclear how far he would have to drop in the draft for the policy to kick in.
Chris Larcheveque is an executive vice president at International Specialty Insurance, which underwrites loss-of-value policies, though not Ogbuehi’s. He used Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu as an example. Ekpre-Olomu was projected to be a first-round pick before he injured his knee during practice for a CFP semifinal game.
Ekpre-Olomu, who rehabbed with Ogbuehi in California, is now projected to go in the third round. If that happens, the insurance paid for him by the Ducks could lead to recouping between $2 million and $3 million of the lost draft position, Larcheveque said.
But if the loss-of-value policy of any member of this draft class is paid out, it will mark the first time.
Former Southern Cal players Marqise Lee and Morgan Breslin are reportedly in legal fights after Lloyd’s of London denied their claims.
There’s only 40-50 players eligible each year for the policy, Larcheveque said. Then, they must get hurt and then drop far enough — as stated in each policy — to qualify.
“We’re watching some of these outcomes,” said David Batson, A&M’s director of athletics compliance, “and evaluating all the time if it’s a good use of the resources.”
A&M, for now, will continue using funds from the Student Assistance Fund for buying loss-of-value insurance policies. The fund is limited and has other uses so only a few of the top players —determined by head coaches — can take advantage.
Ogbuehi was the first athlete A&M paid for, followed by purchasing a loss-of-value policy for another football player, Batson said. A&M is in the process of buying permanent disability insurance for an athlete in a different sport. The NCAA only recently OKed athletes to get loans based on future earning potential to cover loss-of-value premiums.
A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin said loss-of-value insurance takes some stress out of players’ decisions to return to school and “at not forcing their hand financially, also giving them the ability to either earn their degree or get closer to their degree — and some guys are trying to play their way up to the top 10.”
But Larcheveque acknowledged the insurance has to prove beneficial.
“Our space is like a Vegas casino,” he said. “If you just lost every time you got to the table, people would stop coming.”
Ogbuehi has not allowed self-pity about the injury. He said it occurred when he sustained a hit from his side. He finished the bowl game, believing his knee to be sprained. He later underwent an MRI, then surgery.
“The first day, it sucked,” he said. “But I had to get over it.”
He posted to Instagram in January a picture of him in his hospital gown and bed, captioned: “God Got Me. I’ll be back ASAP. No Worries.”
His social media of late has included observations from airports and hotel gyms as he’s traveled to meet with 10 NFL teams. He was also bummed that Twitter spoiled for him the TV show he’s surprisingly into — Grey’s Anatomy —that he’s been too busy to watch.
Ogbuehi, versatile and long-armed, could still end up extending A&M’s four-year streak of producing at least one first-rounder.
A&M’s last two left tackles, Luke Joeckel, of Arlington, and Jake Matthews, were the No. 2 and No. 6 overall picks in 2013 and 2014.
Ogbuehi is already part of Aggie lore. When former quarterback Johnny Manziel made his signature play — a touchdown in 2012 against Alabama after a fumbled ball and a recovery — Manziel originally lost hold of the ball by running into Ogbuehi’s backside.
Beyond concerns about the injury setback, some draft experts have also publicly questioned what they considered an uneven year at left tackle after Ogbuehi previously played guard and right tackle.
With all the events of the last months, Ogbuehi, succinctly, summed up his approach to what’s next for him.
“I guess,” he said, “we’ll see Thursday.”