Oklahoma football: How Charles Tapper went from a football newcomer to OU starting defensive end

A look at Tapper's journey from being a sophomore at Baltimore's City College High School that didn't really play football to less than four years later being the starting defensive end for the No. 14 team in the country.
by Ryan Aber Published: September 18, 2013
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After playing in five games last season, Tapper made his first start Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe.

Through three games, he has 14 tackles and has been a disruptive force at defensive end.

“His strides are unbelievable,” Sooners defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery said. “He's nowhere near his potential, and we're working every day for him to basically get a better feel for the game and just let it loose and play with technique and fundamentals.”

Tapper isn't doing this just for himself.

Wednesday evening, his 11-year-old brother, Shawn, jumped into his mom's car after practice and proclaimed, “I want to be a defensive end like Charles.”

Both Shawn and 9-year-old Jordan, adopted by Rhonda, do.

They came with their mom to the Sooners opener.

“They love it,” Tapper said. “Especially coming to the game. They wish they could (be) out onto the field with me. They love playing. They've been pushing themselves a lot, especially in school, to get better.”

Tapper felt like he needed to get away from Baltimore.

“All my friends just pretty much were getting in trouble and not really thinking in the right mindset,” Tapper said.

By the time Tapper's high school career ended, two of his basketball teammates died from gun violence.

“He could've easily been one of those at-risk youth who chose to go down the wrong path,” Robinson said. “But he's made some strong decisions that have led him to where he is today.

“He's an example to many young kids coming out of Baltimore City that it is possible — that it's never too late to tap into your gifts and make your dreams reality.”

Since he came to Oklahoma, Tapper has seen a change in some of his friends when he goes back home.

“Seeing me. I guess I opened a lot of guys' eyes in Baltimore that this could actually be a reality instead of a dream,” Tapper said.

Tapper's father died when he was young. His mother is an administrator with Baltimore City Public Schools.

“Baltimore is a rough place to grow up in,” Rhonda said. “After Charles' father passed, we moved to an area of Baltimore that's a little more settled, but he went to a school in a very rough area of Baltimore and basically beat the odds of what is expected of African-American males here.”

Next week, Rhonda will make the drive from Baltimore to South Bend, Ind., with about 15 relatives to watch her son play for the Sooners against Notre Dame.

“We are a very close-knit family, and Charles has made us proud,” Rhonda said. “Baltimore is excited for the success that Charles is having. I'm just so excited that he is my son. It's just unbelievable.”


by Ryan Aber
Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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