Sometimes, a guy gets permanent "Damn Good ‘Dawg" status with me on the basis of one play. I would, for instance, forgive almost any sin committed by Kevin Butler because of his 60-yard field goal to beat Clemson in 1984. Likewise, I’m willing to overlook nearly every error Bacarri Rambo has ever made, on the field or off, thanks to his touchdown-saving, concussion-causing hit at the end of the 2009 Auburn game.
However, Orson Charles, who was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the NFL Draft, may have been the first to gain that acclaim due to something he did before he had ever played a down of college football. From the moment he broke the Florida Gators’ national championship trophy with his butt, Orson was all right in my book.
Charles, whose birth on January 27, 1991, coincided nicely with the 206th anniversary of the chartering of the University of Georgia, was a teammate of Aaron Murray at Tampa’s Plant High School, where he was rated the top tight end in the Sunshine State by Scout.com. Despite starting only three games as a rookie in the Classic City, Charles earned FWAA first-team freshman All-American honors and was elected to the SEC All-Freshman team both by the coaches and by The Sporting News.
Orson made his bones against the home-state Gators, making his first career start in Jacksonville in 2009, bringing in six catches for 108 yards (both then career highs) and a touchdown against Florida in 2010, and leading the team with four grabs in last year’s World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Charles also got it done off the field, as well, making either the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll or the SEC Academic Honor Roll in each of his three collegiate seasons while receiving induction into the University’s student-athlete leadership academy, election as a team captain, and the bestowing of a Coaches’ Leadership Award. The All-American honors rolled in from several sources following a junior season in which he was a finalist for the John Mackey Award.
We whose loyalties lie in Athens, and who equate the NFL Draft with Carousel from "Logan’s Run," probably think a bit more highly of Orson Charles than many professional football scouts and pundits. When we see that, over the course of his Bulldog career, Charles averaged 14.6 yards per catch yet only 34.3 yards per game, we are more likely to curse Mike Bobo for underutilizing his five-star skill player than we are to hold Charles responsible for any shortcomings. After all, his junior campaign (45 catches for five touchdowns) nearly equaled the totals from his first two years combined (49 catches for five touchdowns).
That, though, is not what NFL operatives and observers see. What they see is an ill-timed arrest less than two months before the draft, a pair of sub-par 40-yard dash times on a blustery Pro Day in Athens, and a decision not to try to improve upon those times at the scouting combine. I make no excuses for the run-in with the law, though it sometimes seems as though being arrested while operating a motor vehicle is for a Georgia football player what living at River Mill is for a Georgia undergraduate who is not a scholarship athlete: something you simply have to do if you’re enrolled at the University long enough.
Regarding the time it takes Charles to run 40 yards in a straight line, though, I would simply note that any offensive coordinator who considers assigning him the task of running 40 yards in a straight line probably is missing the point. Admittedly, as a Bulldog fan, I tend to be more forgiving of tight ends than of wide receivers, but the beauty of 6’3", 251-pound Orson Charles is that what was said of William Hurt as an actor---that he was a character actor trapped in a leading man’s body---is true of our man Orson, as well: Charles is a wide receiver trapped in a tight end’s body, and, if Georgia’s offensive coordinator were as adept at putting hybrid-type players in positions to succeed as Georgia’s defensive coordinator is, Charles would be seen for the special talent that he is.
We wish Orson Charles well as he heads to the NFL. It won’t surprise me in the slightest if, some day, we see the former Bulldog tight end standing on the dais as a member of a Super Bowl-winning squad . . . and promptly breaking the Lombardi Trophy with his butt.