ATHENS -- Orson Charles made his decision during the weekend and began telling Georgia teammates Tuesday night. Then on Wednesday, as he prepared to officially announce he was going pro, the junior tight end looked back on the goals he had set for himself as a college player.
“I was checking them off, saying, ‘Yes I did this; yes I did that,’ ” he said.
There still might have been some goals not reached, and the final game of his career may have been a dud, but few could argue against Charles’ decision from a career standpoint. He is expected to be among the top tight ends available in April’s NFL draft.
“To tell you the truth it wasn’t really difficult at all,” Charles said. “But the one reason I felt like I entered the draft is I just felt like I met the majority of my goals. I felt like I’ve grown spiritually ... I felt like I’ve grown as a player. I just felt like as my situation, and I continued to pray about it, I felt like I was ready to enter the draft.”
Wes Bunting, a draft analyst for the National Football Post, agreed. He said. Charles couldn’t have done much more for his draft stock by returning for his senior year.
“You know what he is, he’s a good athlete who can catch the football and run down the seam,” Bunting said.
Bunting said Charles projects to be a second-round pick but could be picked anywhere from 25th overall to 45th.
“I think he would be the most dynamic off the line guy, meaning you could split him off as a slot guy,” Bunting said. “Teams want these big slot guys because you can’t put a corner on them; they’re too physical. They can’t put a linebacker on them; they’re not as fast.”
Charles, who is 6-foot-3 and 241 pounds, started every game for the Bulldogs this past season and was their leader in the regular season with 44 catches. He gradually increased his catch total each year, from 23 his freshman year to 26 as a sophomore, and he finished his career with 1,370 yards and 10 touchdowns.
But in his final game, in his hometown of Tampa for the Outback Bowl, he only had a 2-yard catch. Plus Georgia lost the game. Charles said that didn’t have an impact on his decision.
“I didn’t want to make an emotional decision,” he said.
What did matter was the advice he received from a number of sources, most notably Tony Dungy. The former NFL head coach and current NBC analyst lives in Tampa, and Charles said he consulted daily with Dungy and met with him once.
Charles said he also consulted with current NFL players such as Ben Watson, Randy McMichael, D.J. Ware, Dustin Keller, Ben Watson, Vernon Davis and Mike Williams.
“They just were throwing some pros and cons at me. The majority of people said you’ve gotta be happy,” Charles said. “If you come back, you can’t look back. If you go to the NFL, you can’t look back. You just have to be happy with your decision.”
While Charles’ decision was not unexpected, it does leave a void for the Bulldogs. The second-string tight end, Aron White, has graduated.
The team has Jay Rome, last year’s five-star recruit who redshirted this past season, as well as incoming recruit Ty Smith.
There’s also Arthur Lynch, a sophomore, who will be the early favorite to move in the starting spot.
Charles said he spoke with Lynch after making his decision.
“He’s fired up. He’s ready,” Charles said. “He knows what he has to do. We’ve been doing this together since our 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.”