January 11, 2012

Charles bids adieu

In the end, Orson Charles felt it was an opportunity he simply couldn't pass up.

With that, the junior from Tampa, Fla. announced during a teleconference Wednesday afternoon that he was forgoing his senior season at Georgia to enter the NFL Draft.

"I just thank God for allowing me to be in this situation, but the one reason I felt it was time to turn (pro) is I met most of my goals I set when I came here," Charles said. "I feel like I've grown spiritually, I felt like I've grown as a player and after praying about it, and thinking about my family situation, I just decided to enter the draft."

Charles said he made the final decision on Tuesday, at which time he informed head coach Mark Richt.

It wasn't a haphazard choice.

Charles said he spoke to a number of former Bulldogs currently in the NFL, other pro players and one special person - a former NFL head coach - who has been a mentor since his days at Tampa Plant High.

The main person I stayed in contact with, I called him like every day and I've got to thank him was Tony Dungy (former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis head coach)," said Charles, who added he also spoke with numerous others including former Bulldogs Ben Watson, Randy McMichael and Mike Moore, plus current NFL tight ends Vernon Davis and Dustin Keller.

Will more Bulldogs follow Charles to the pros? Time will tell.

Junior safety Bacarri Rambo and junior outside linebacker Cornelius Washington are known to be considering the jump, but sources Wednesday told UGASports that both players are leaning toward returning to Georgia for their senior campaigns.

Draft-eligible underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to announce their intentions.

Charles said he has yet to sign with an agent, but expects to in the coming days.

The 6-foot-3, 241-pounder finishes his Bulldog career with 94 catches for 1,370 yards and 10 touchdowns, including a junior season which saw him snare 45 grabs for 574 yards and five scores.

For his effort, Charles was named first-team All-SEC, and earned first-team All-American honors by both the Walter Camp Foundation and the American Football Coaches Association.

He was also a finalist for the Mackey Award, which goes to the nation's top tight end.

Charles would not reveal the grade he received from the NFL Advisory Board, but said it was within the area he hoped it would be.

"I'm ready for the next challenge," Charles said.

With Charles and senior Aron White both gone, the bulk of Georgia's tight end duties now figures to fall to rising junior Arthur Lynch, along with freshman Jay Rome who is currently playing on the Bulldog basketball team.

Georgia also has a verbal commitment from Colquitt County's Ty Smith and recently offered a scholarship to Florida prospect Sean Price, a verbal commitment to South Florida.

"I briefly talked to him last night and again today; he's fired up, he's ready," Charles said. "We've been doing this together since my freshman year, running routes; he's been telling me what I need to work on and I've been telling him what he needs to work on. I'm pretty sure he'll do a very good job as far as doing whatever the coaches ask him to do. I'm excited to see it."