By John Shinn
CNHI News Service
NORMAN – A little less than five years ago, Charles Tapper was with a friend at a Maryland McDonald’s when the topic turned to his future. Tapper, then barely old enough to drive, always saw himself as a basketball player. The friend saw a different path and laid it out with a vivid analogy.
“He told me, ‘You can either drive a Honda Accord or a Lamborghini,’” Tapper said.
At the moment, he wasn’t sure what his friend meant. But the meaning was simple: Continuing to pour his heart and soul into basketball had limits. A future in football had limitless possibilities.
“I said, ‘Shoot, I wanna drive a Lamborghini,’” Tapper said.
He doesn’t have the car of his dreams yet, but anything seems possible when it comes to Tapper’s future.
The Oklahoma sophomore defensive end is projected to start when the season kicks off Aug. 31 against Louisiana-Monroe. That part is no surprise for a 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end. Tapper looks the part in every sense.
But when Tapper had that conversation with his friend back home, he’d just started playing the game as a junior in high school. Tapper spent his summers on the AAU basketball circuit and was a standout post player with the athletic ability to score and bang with bigger players.
The weight room was foreign to him, so were swim moves, bull rushes and twists. But everything else was there and easy to see for everyone except Tapper.
He was still tepid about his football future when the same friend who convinced him football was his career path got him into a scouting combine. OU assistant Bobby Jack Wright saw him there.
Two years later, he was wearing an OU uniform. Three years later, he’s likely starting his first game.
The fact that his time on the football field, or in a weight program, was minimal scared off some schools. All the Sooners saw was potential.
“Here’s a guy that’s big, physical and he’s hardly lifted weights,” OU coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s hardly been doing the things our guys have been doing and imagine when he does.”
He’s now had two years of summer lifting programs and a season under his belt during which he played in five games.
However, OU is starving for impact defensive linemen.
Stoops likens Tapper to 2011 Big 12 defensive player of the year Frank Alexander. Both arrived in Norman with little fanfare but were exceptional athletes with basketball backgrounds.
“Everyone knew very little about them when they came on the scene and all of a sudden played very well. I think Charles is every bit the athlete and player Frank was at that age,” Stoops said. “Hopefully, it will keep coming in that way in that he’s going to show more and more consistency and play at the level I believe he will.”
The one difference is Alexander didn’t emerge until late in his career. He was a fifth-year senior in 2011.
Tapper is just a sophomore who decided just four years ago to fully dedicate himself to football. The Sooners are asking more from him at an earlier age.
Tapper believes he’s ready for everything that’s about to hit him. He knows there’s no guarantee the analogy that helped push him into football guarantees all his dreams will be fulfilled. But he believes he’s proved something to the coaching staff over the last two years.
“That I’m hungry and determined and that I want to be great. I want to put some national championships and some more Big 12 championships on the wall,” Tapper said. “I wanna be one of those guys on the wall for first-team All-American.”