Whatever happens to Orson Charles over the course of his Georgia career, the freshman from Tampa, Fla. can count on one thing - Tony Dungy will be watching.
Dungy, the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, got to know Charles during his senior year at Plant High, where his son Eric is a defensive back on the team.
It was Dungy who helped Charles navigate through the recruiting process, a fact that the Bulldog freshman doesn't intend to forget any time soon.
"Coach Dungy is definitely like another father to be along with my pastor and my mom," Charles said. "He actually helped me through the whole process, laying the schools out, talking about the pros and cons."
The two still stay in touch.
"I texted him right after camp, just to give him an update on how I was doing," said Charles, who sought out Dungy's advice the week prior to Signing Day last February.
The 6-foot-3, 233-pound tight end was in a quandary, struggling to decide between Georgia, Southern Cal and Tennessee.
"I told him I was stuck, I asked him 'what should I do?'" Charles said. "That's when he sat me down, gave me some guidelines on what he would do for his son and I just took it from there."
Dungy spoke very highly of Charles when he came to Athens last March.
"Orson was narrowing things down and he knew that I had been in professional football, he was good friends with my son, so he just said 'Hey, as I'm making my decision and I'd like to talk to you about some things,'" Dungy said. "He asked if any schools would be a help in terms of being a professional player, and I said 'Hey, the schools you're talking about, they all have good coaches and they're going to give you the exposure that you need. I told him he didn't really need to worry about that. I told him that he needed to be comfortable. That's the only way I tried to encourage him."
Charles appreciated his honesty.
"It never came out of his mouth, I don't want you to go to this school," Charles said. "He gave me comments about each school; I wrote them down and then talked about them with my family."
Charles said Dungy helped him cut through a lot of the malarkey that top-recruits often hear.
He couldn't be happier playing for Mark Richt's Bulldogs.
"As a top recruit, all the schools sounded the same. They (other schools) all say you can start early, they all they say you can have this number," said Charles. "I just wanted to speak to an experienced person who had been in the game, in this case an experienced NFL coach and what he would look for, what got him out of college and stuff like that."
Dungy isn't the only person with a pro football background who has offered Charles some unsolicited advice.
He talks to free agent wideout Mike Williams, current Tampa Bay receiver Michael Clayton and former Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, each of whom have offered pointers that Charles has taken to heart.
"All these guys have been through the system and have given me some good pointers and things to work on that I can use at this level," Charles said. "I met Doug Williams at one of the combines I went to. We chit-chatted a little bit and he told me some things I could work on, footwork, stuff like that."
But it's relationship with Dungy that he cherishes the most.
Charles admits he was just a bit awestruck when the former coach pulled him aside prior to practice one day at Plant.
The two exchanged numbers and have remained friends ever since.
"The choice that you make really determines a lot with what's going to happen in your life so you want them to understand that. You want them to be comfortable," Dungy said. "It was fun for me to watch Orson, to watch Aaron (Murray) go through the decision-making process and know that they did get good counsel from their parents, their high school coach and from a lot of other people around them."
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