NORMAN — About a month after the U.S. Army All-American Combine in 2011, Oklahoma assistant Bobby Jack Wright finally tracked down the elusive Charles Tapper.
Wright had found about Tapper's performance at the combine — just weeks after Tapper started paying much attention to football — and immediately reached out through Facebook.
But it wasn't until weeks later when Tapper was at the home of Cory Robinson, his trainer and mentor, that Tapper saw the message.
When they finally talked on the phone, Wright extended a scholarship offer.
Tapper was stunned.
“For what?” Tapper asked Wright.
“I was like no way,” Tapper said.
“No way” could easily describe 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.
Robinson started seeing Tapper on the basketball court, where his cousin coached Tapper. Robinson, an assistant football coach at Baltimore's Calvert Hall College High School, started envisioning Tapper as a defensive end.
One day in a meeting at McDonald's, Robinson laid things out for Tapper. He could play basketball and be a middling player or he could be a star on the football field.
“I've been working hard ever since then,” Tapper said.
In the immediate future was preparing Tapper for the combine in San Antonio.
Tapper started watching film of college and NFL defensive ends and working on basic things like the stance he needed to get into to start a 40-yard dash.
Robinson also tried to tie in drills to basketball.
“I had him doing medicine ball tosses into a shopping cart,” Robinson said. “It was like shooting a basketball into a goal, but we put him on his knees. That just kind of made it relevant to him and kind of having fun, but he was working on technique at the same time.”
Tapper's mother, Rhonda, was surprised that Charles was finally giving football a try — she'd talked him into playing as a sophomore, but Charles didn't go to many practices and just used it to kill time until basketball started.
She wasn't surprised in his rise once he finally decided to give football his full attention.
“He's always been a hard worker and a go-getter in everything,” Rhonda said. “Everything happened so fast.”
Before Rhonda knew it, the offer came from the Sooners.
Both mother and child were en route to an AAU basketball tournament — on separate flights — when Bob Stoops called Charles.
Her phone blew up when she landed, and she hurried to call Charles, fearing there was something wrong.
“He told me he talked to Bob Stoops and if you talk to Bob Stoops, you have to go to Oklahoma,” Rhonda said. “It was amazing experience. Everything that Bob Stoops and, I love Bobby Jack Wright, told me would happen, it happened just as they said. They were honest. They were true. They didn't sell us any dreams. They told us the truth.”