Orson Charles’ Learning Curve
By BJ Bennett
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Orson Charles is known around campus as being one of the greatest tight ends in Georgia football history. He's vowed to make sure his legacy is more well-rounded.
Year one for any rookie is always a learning process. The introduction to the professional ranks for former Georgia tight end Orson Charles was no different. A fourth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL Draft, Charles spent his first season in the big leagues earning his stripes. He finished the year with eight catches for 101 yards and a trip to the playoffs, where Cincinnati lost for the second consecutive season to the Houston Texans.
"It was definitely disappointing because we know that we could have beaten that team and we lost to them last year. It was definitely disappointing to come up short once again, but I'm happy to have had a great rookie season," Charles acknowledged on "Three and Out" on the Southern Pigskin Sports Network. "I got one year under my belt and I'm glad that I was able to play for such a good team."
Charles, who decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility in Athens to pursue his football dreams, had the rare benefit of familiarity upon his NFL indoctrination. With five other former UGA players on the roster, Charles was met by friendly faces when he stepped into his new, high-profile classroom. Together, his Bulldog brothers helped him overcome mistakes on and off the field. Geno Atkins, Clint Boling, Robert Geathers, A.J. Green and Dennis Roland each brought a little bit of "The Classic City" to "The Queen City". In Charles' eyes, they brought a blueprint for success as well.
"It definitely feels good and makes me feel more at home. Looking around and seeing Geno, A.J. and Clint makes me feel like I'm still at Georgia," Charles admitted. "It was definitely good because when I came in I got to see what it was like, how I was supposed to do it. How a pro bowler practices and studies. Every time we would travel, Geno would be on the bus watching film. We would get to the hotel, he would still be watching film. He would watch film all of the way up to kickoff. I definitely got some tips from Geno and A.J."
Even in orange and black, Charles got his red and black fill during his first season in the NFL. Though Cincinnati's loss to Houston means there is still work to be done for the Bengals, he has headed back to South Jackson Street to handle his most pressing unfinished business.
"I am going back to school," explained Charles, who is currently enrolled in classes at UGA. "That is one thing that I pride myself in and I made a promise to my mom, to get my degree. This is my first off-season and I made a promise to myself to come back and get my degree."
Charles is known around campus as being one of the greatest tight ends in Georgia football history. He's vowed to make sure his legacy is more well-rounded. Back in Athens, Charles is now alongside many who helped him get to where he is today. His former high school and college quarterback, Aaron Murray, included. The Bulldogs' record-setting starter just recently announced his plans to return for his senior season.
"Whatever records have been set, I'm pretty sure he is going to attempt to go break them all," Charles laughed. "He broke a lot of records at Georgia last year. As far as him coming back, I'm very happy for him. Whatever records are left in college football, I'm pretty sure he is going to break them."
The play of Murray, Charles' fellow Plant High School (Tampa) product, is one of the main reasons why Georgia just recently tied a school-record for wins with 12. He helped lead the Bulldogs to within one play of a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, a gutsy performance not lost on Georgia's former All-SEC tight end.
"I am definitely proud of those boys. Five yards away from playing for the national championship, everybody's dream. That's an accomplishment," Charles added. "I'm not trying to bash anybody's team but I felt like I saw the national championship when Georgia played Alabama. That was a great game and I feel like they have a bright future because they have a lot of young players coming up who are going to have to step up to get back to where they want to go."
While Charles has already fulfilled a childhood aspiration of playing professional football, he knows what he needs to get to where he ultimately wants to go. Just days after the end of Cincinnati's season, Charles has quickly transitioned from the locker room to the classroom. Though now an NFL veteran, his education is not yet complete.