By Lindsey Morrison
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Growing up in Baltimore, Md., Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper never pictured himself going to college 1,300 miles away to play football under head coach Bob Stoops. But it wasn’t because he didn’t think he was good enough or would not be recruited.
Up through high school, Tapper, at 6 feet 4 inches, was a basketball player, not exactly what Stoops was looking for. But before his junior year, he made the decision to leave behind what he knew to pick up a completely different sport.
“It was a difficult decision,” Tapper said. “I didn’t really get the offers that I wanted for basketball so when it came down to it, I knew that football was the best opportunity for me.”
After playing high school football for just two years, Tapper got the one phone call he never saw coming. Stoops wanted Tapper on his team; a team that at the time was ranked No.1 in the nation.
“I never in a million years would have seen myself here because when they recruited me they were number one in the nation so I didn’t think of it,” Tapper said. “It was a dream come true. I was just speechless on the phone. I told my mom and she was speechless. We went to church and just thanked God and all the people who helped us get through the process.”
Rhonda Tapper, Charles’ mother, knew that the offer from Stoops meant that her son would be going to Oklahoma, no questions asked.
“He told me he talked to Bob Stoops and if you talk to Bob Stoops, you have to go to Oklahoma,” Rhonda Tapper told The Oklahoman. “It was an amazing experience. Everything that Bob Stoops and Bobby Jack Wright told me would happen, it happened just as they said. They were honest. They didn't sell us any dreams. They told us the truth.”
For Tapper, receiving an offer from Oklahoma meant that not only was he playing for one of the top schools in the nation, but he was one of the top athletes.
“It’s a great feeling just knowing that I’m considered one of the best in the nation,” he said. “A million kids would love to have my opportunity right now so I feel blessed and thankful that they recruited me.”
While Tapper may not have seen himself at Oklahoma, Stoops knew that he would fit in and have the potential for greatness.
“He’s a wonderful young man, and he only played high school ball for a couple of years,” Stoops said. “He was a basketball player but he’s doing great. He’s active and fast, and he’s making a lot of plays. He stays on the field. He has great stamina. So, he’s been really exciting to watch.”
Even Tapper’s teammates, such as linebacker Corey Nelson and defensive end Geneo Grissom noticed the skill and ability that Tapper brought with him to OU.
“Charles is one of the best defensive linemen that we have,” Nelson said. “He has a knack for it and he has a motor and that’s pretty important, especially for a guy that has only played football for three years.”
“Most of us on the defensive line just found out he’s only been playing for a couple years so that’s awesome,” Grissom said. “He’s going to be a great football player. It’s not fair, but he’s a great athlete and a big strong physical guy.”
But getting to where he is now, starting all five games so far this season, hasn’t been the easiest.
“Transitioning wasn’t easy at all,” he said. “Being in the defensive line, it’s a different aggression. It was hard changing the aggression standpoint from basketball from being in the post where you have your arms behind your back and you can’t touch them, to football where you have to touch the guy and go out and make the plays.”
Fortunately, Tapper has plenty of teammates and coaches behind him who are willing to help him succeed in his four years of playing.
“I feel like I can learn a lot, especially playing with my teammates,” he said. “They sit and explain things to me and if I don’t know, I just ask any of them and I feel comfortable asking because it’s like a brotherhood. A lot of guys have been mentors and Coach Montgomery has made me the player I am now.”
After just three years of playing football, Tapper started for OU against the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks.
“It meant a lot,” he said. “Seeing what all that hard work and dedication brought me too. It was great feeling to go out there and finally show them what I could do.”
Though only a sophomore, Tapper already has big dreams and goals set for himself, starting with graduating.“First I want to get a degree,” he said. “Then get to the NFL and be a first round draft pick and hopefully break some records while I’m here.”