Where are they now: Former UGA tight end Orson Charles

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UGA great Orson Charles: Pic via Brandt Sanderlin (AJC)

By Kevin Keneely:

**In this new series titled “Where are they now,” we will be providing the DawgNation with weekly blasts from the past, catching up with former Bulldog greats**

Georgia fans haven’t heard his name yelled out on a Saturday since 2011, but former UGA tight end Orson Charles will always be remembered for what he did both on and off the field in Athens. Charles was in Athens as recently as this past May as he completed his degree in sociology.

Graduating from college was something Charles promised to his mom, brother and pastor.  “It was definitely special, I shared that moment with my family, my church, my pastor, my mentor.” Entering college, Charles made a promise with his mom that if he left early to go to the NFL that he would come back and finish off his degree. He did just that by coming back to campus in the offseason and taking classes. Charles will always love football, but nothing will ever come between him and family/faith. There were times when Charles did not want to get up for class for various reasons, but he knew skipping class was never an option. He has set the standard for his younger brother and proven to him that it is possible to play football and graduate with a degree.

Charles’ mother, Naseline Linton, has been a major influence on his life. She never quit on him and Charles knows that being a single mother having to take care of a family is very difficult. “She was a single mother and now looking back on it, I now see how tough it was and how easy it would’ve been to quit and she didn’t do that.” After Charles was born, his mother went back and got her degree from the University of South Florida, which is what motivated Charles to get his degree.

His younger brother, 15, plays for Plant High School in Tampa Florida. Charles graduated from Plant in 2009 after transferring in right before his senior year. At the time, Charles had no idea who played for Plant, but he knew they had great coaches and this was an opportunity he could not pass up. “I wanted to better my career and I wanted to better me, I wanted to get a full scholarship so my mom didn’t have to pay for me,” Charles said in regards to his reasoning for transferring to Plant.

Plant’s quarterback his senior year was none other than Aaron Murray. That season, the future Bulldogs helped lead Plant to a state championship. “Getting the state title was a blessing and a dream come true,” Charles said. These two built a bond from day one and it only got stronger once they got to Athen. Charles was sold on UGA once he went on his visit and said Mark Richt and John Lilly took him in like family. “It felt different; they wanted me there for me being me.” And like every UGA fan, his favorite memory is “Beating Florida my last year.”

Charles and Richt built a special bond over the years, and even with Richt going to Miami, their bond still stands strong. When Charles is back home in Tampa, Florida, he is only four hours away from his former coach in Miami. When UGA and Coach Richt went different ways, Charles sent him a text saying that he is praying for him and once Richt got the job at Miami he texted Charles saying, “I’m keeping this number,” and to call him whenever he wants.

Even with the coaching changes Georgia has underwent since Charles has left, nothing could’ve convinced him to play anywhere other than UGA. “If I was to go back, I’d still pick Georgia to this day.” The fact that Kirby Smart was able to bring in 93,000 fans to the spring game is unheard of to Charles.

Charles just finished his first mini camp with his new team, the Detroit Lions. “The coaching staff was really cool and down to earth,” Charles said. “I felt like I did good.” Charles’ new quarterback is former UGA great, Matthew Stafford. They have met once before when Stafford came back to UGA and they threw around for a little bit, but Charles doesn’t want to just focus his attention to building chemistry with Stafford, “I want any quarterback to feel confident to throw to me.”

This offseason, on top of going to class, he worked out five days a week. He would workout with the track team three days a week and then travel to Atlanta twice a week to train with Lilian Abdelmalek. Abdelmalek is the owner of DSA Training (Dynamic Speed Agility Training). He feels like his body is in great shape and that he is ready to compete again in the NFL. “I feel like I have what it takes to compete and help boost this team and win games.”

Once his football career is over, Charles has plans to help give back to struggling families. His goal is to build student housing, on east coast colleges, for students who come from low-income families and are struggling to send their kids off to school. Right now Charles is working part time with Sterling Homes, a company known for building custom homes. He isn’t doing too much with them at the moment, but he has been taking a lot of notes and hopes that once his career is over, he can start building these houses and give back…The Georgia Way.

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