Catching up with UGA Great Orson Charles

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By Maghen Moore

Maybe you remember him from his high school success and state championship win. Maybe you remember him from his experience playing alongside Aaron Murray in high school as well as in college. Maybe you remember his recruiting visit to Florida – memorable by the humor he can recognize now. Maybe you remember him from his NFL Draft experience; drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Or maybe you remember him as being a determined, driven, and family-oriented person. Either way, we all remember him as a Damn Good Dawg.

Orson Charles is a former Tight End for the University of Georgia and I was given the privilege of speaking with him a few weeks ago. We discussed his high school days, his season at UGA, and his current and progressing success in the NFL.

Orson Charles transferred to Plant High School where he helped lead his team to a 4A state championship in 2008. When I asked Charles to describe the feeling of winning a state championship, he stated that, “getting the state title was a blessing and a dream come true,” but Charles took it a step further.

Charles made sure to tell me that the bonds he made with his teammates and coaches that year were what still stand out to him today. He also explained that this bond came before the 2008 season started. Team events gathered him with his team and allowed him to grow with them and to reach their goal. Ultimately, Charles gives the success in the 2008 season and championship to the bonds formed within Plant High School’s 2008 roster.

Orson Charles scores a touchdown for Plant HS in the 2008 state championship game. (Pic: Tampa Bay Times)
Orson Charles scores a touchdown for Plant HS in the 2008 state championship game. (Pic: Tampa Bay Times)

Being a Plant Panther to Charles was “going the extra mile” for your team.

An additional point made was that he played with another DGD, Aaron Murray. When Charles explained the experience of growing with his quarterback, he said, “it was comforting to have someone you knew.” In high school, Charles and Murray experienced the state championship together. When they both decided to continue their education and football careers at UGA, they experienced an SEC Championship game together. Charles explained Murray in greater detail as a friend and ball player.

Charles described Murray as a smart quarterback who “attacked the playbook.” Charles says that he even picked up some study strategies from his freshman and sophomore year roommate. With this, Charles also said “having Aaron [Murray] on my side and growing up with him and us being family was definitely a dream come true.”

Continuing our conversation with college football, I made sure to understand Charles’ choice in UGA.

If you remember National Signing Day in 2009, Charles took a bit longer to make his decision. He told me he wanted to pray, speak with his pastor, and speak with his mother before making his decision. After doing so, Charles says, “it wasn’t an easy decision.” He also told me, “Georgia stuck out because it was a family-oriented organization.” Charles also spoke highly of Coach Richt and Lilly. He says, “There were Godly, fatherly men that [he] could look up to and relate to.” So when Charles said, “’I am going to the University of Georgia’,” he said, ”I had no regrets.”

UGA players Aaron Murray, Brandon Boykin and Orson Charles hold up a white board that reads "We run this state" after beating Georgia Tech 31-17. (Pic: Rich Addicks, AJC)
UGA players Aaron Murray, Brandon Boykin and Orson Charles hold up a white board that reads “We run this state” after beating Georgia Tech 31-17. (Pic: Rich Addicks, AJC)

Speaking of Coach Richt, Charles agreed with the family-oriented, genuine reputation Richt has throughout the nation. He discussed that “Coach Richt still welcomes you,” even when you come back after you graduate. He explained that at 6 AM workouts, he was out there with the team, hearing the coaching and teaching that the active Bulldogs were experiencing. Charles tells me that this was another selling point of UGA – acquiring a family during your college career, after graduation, and later in life.

Charles put three college football seasons under his belt before heading into the NFL Draft. When asked about his draft day experience, Charles explained it in one word: bittersweet. Charles made the decision of leaving UGA early in order to pursue a career in the National Football League. Going from college to professional football, Charles said the toughest change was “the knowledge of the game … [and] once you knock the knowledge down you can play as fast as you can.” Charles made sure to be the first one to arrive at practice and begin working and being the last one to leave the facilities.

With this mentality, Charles was recently added to another franchise’s program, the New Orleans Saints. He explains that the offensive scheme is much similar to that of the Bengals, however, he says his task now “is making sure [he] is where Drew [Brees] wants him to be.” Charles also told me that it is important he watches a lot of film to have a similar point of view as his Quarterback and to learn the terminology of the offensive scheme.

Orson Charles as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Pic via Bengals.com)
Orson Charles as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. (Pic via Bengals.com)

After discussing his personal football journey and continued career, Charles wanted to give some advice to the upcoming Bulldogs. To put it simple, Charles said, “Humble yourself.” With these four and five star recruits, he says it is important to, “keep your head down and work … listen to the coaches.” Listening to Charles explain his advice, I could tell that his importance of this next chapter is to remember what is important and “to know what your insight goal is.” From this advice, Charles put the 2015 football season in sight.

With that, everyone is talking about this upcoming season for the Georgia Bulldogs. Nick Chubb, a Heisman hopeful, the return of Keith Marshall, and the quarterback race are on the minds of Georgia fans. Curious to Charles’ thoughts on each, he told me, “I don’t think anyone is gonna beat us. You can write me down.” So, of course, I did.

With that confidence, Charles added that “no one really beats us .. we only beat ourselves.” His evidence: Georgia’s stacked offense and the confidence the team will acquire. Charles is “confident in his Dawgs.” So Bulldogs, Charles says, “know ourselves and know what we can do,” to ensure a successful season.

Beyond football in general, I got to talk to Orson Charles personally. When asked what he missed most about Athens in general, he discussed the dynamic difference between college and the NFL. Charles says that he misses his teammates more than anything. “Coming in with your guys, saying this is the best recruiting class … after we’ll go eat, and that’s what I miss the most,” Charles said. “As far as college,” he says, “you have all the time to hang out with your boys.” That difference is what Charles misses about Athens, Georgia and his team.

On a more serious note, he misses Choo Choo’s and Mama’s Boy. Let’s be honest, Athens is Georgia football and some quite amazing food.

When it was all said and done, I had to ask about the Florida incident.

A little background information: Orson Charles went on his Florida visit in 2008. When touring the facilities, Charles accidentaly knocked over the Gators’ 2006 BCS trophy. Charles told the Tampa Tribune that, “If you stood outside the stadium, it was so loud, I think you would’ve heard it shatter.”

I asked Charles if he could laugh about it now, his response, “[he] can laugh about it now but at the moment, [he] couldn’t.” “I thought they were gonna make me pay for it,” he said. He described it as a ‘Southwestern commercial; “I wanted to get away at that time,” Charles jokingly explained.

Orson Charles makes a catch vs Florida
Orson Charles makes a catch vs Florida

As for his time now, Charles says, “I’m pretty boring.” If he’s not working hard with his team in the facilities or studying, Charles finds himself relaxing, chilling, and watching TV shows like Scandal, The Walking Dead, How To Get Away With Murder, The Following, and he says, “you name it, I watch it.” “I like to just chill. If I’m not studying, if I’m not practicing, I like to just relax and chill.”

All in all, Orson Charles is the definition of a Damn Good Dawg. He’s a driven athlete, family-oriented man, and a down-to-earth guy. I enjoyed my time talking with him, getting to know his career from high school to his now NFL career, and to learn about his time in Athens. This season, Charles will compete for a roster spot in the New Orleans Saints’ training camp. To keep up with his success, follow the tight end, #81 for the Saints.

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