Player Profile: Charles Tapper
Imagine yourself working tirelessly for something. You haven’t always wanted it, but now that you do, you are emphatic in your relentless pursuit of this thing. Blood, sweat, and tears will be shed during this process; fatigue setting in at every turn, a battle between the mind’s desire and the body’s physical capacity. This is a struggle every athlete experiences daily. Some embrace it, others abhor it. No matter what the approach is, it puts food on the table. Now, imagine that daily struggle –pushing yourself to the point of physical exertion- and having to worry that the next play could be your last. This of course, if you are not responsible with your condition. This is the reality of Charles Tapper.
Diagnosed with sickle cell trait, Tapper is more likely to experience heat stroke and muscle breakdown as a result of intense exercise. Constant monitoring and observation is a reality that will never go away. While very manageable, it’s certainly something that will always be at forefront of the mind. This holds especially true when pushing for another snap, rep, or whatever the task at hand may be.
Bob Stoops, Tapper’s coach at Oklahoma University, told The Oklahoman’s Jason Kersey, “When we’re in the out of season, we don’t allow Charles to go through our different stages or drills that we go from one to the next to the next,” he said. “He’s just not capable of doing that, or we don’t want to put him at risk of something really happening to him.”
How did he get here?
Tapper’s football life began in his junior year of high school. His mother told him he had too much time on his hands. She wanted him to either get a job or pickup another sport. Originally a basketball player at heart, Tapper thought he’d try out for the football team. Secretly, he hoped to get cut in time for the basketball season.
It wasn’t until he met someone that he considered football seriously and the rest is history. Tapper told Tammy Nunez of NOLA.com, “Me and my mom, we had met this guy named Cory Robinson (a personal trainer). We were just sitting down, he and my mom. The first thing he said to me is do you want a Honda or a Lamborghini?” Tapper said. “He said, pick your choice. I said of course, a Lamborghini. So he said, if you play this football and give me a chance to show you what I can do and show you the things to make you better, you could be driving a Lamborghini in three years.”
Don’t mistake motivation for playing as a lack of underlying love for the sport, either. He’s plenty passionate. This, along with his condition, are all pastels used to create the mosaic known as Charles Tapper. It’s important to understand the man first and the football player second. This is especially true when diagnosing how he fits on the roster, how he projects in the future, and what people can learn from his story.
Assessing the fit
Tapper, a 6-2’ 276 pound 3-4 defensive end, was the Cowboy’s 4th round selection in this year’s draft. After recording the fastest time of any defensive lineman in the draft, he caught the attention of the entire league. It’s surmised that if his raw ability (85.4% and fourth best in the draft for edge players percentile athleticism) can be combined with proper technique, Tapper is a monster waiting in the wings. This is exactly the kind of project that Will McClay and Stephen Jones are committed too.
The belief is, that with some hard coaching from Rod Marinelli, Tapper can develop into a major rotation piece. Marinelli is one of the best 4-3 defensive line coaches in the league and figures to be enthralled with the piece of clay he’s just received. He also likely had a large hand in drafting Tapper, and likely saw something within him that he could ignite.
In order to fully understand just why the Cowboys and Marinelli were so intrigued by Tapper, it’s important to understand the why. The right defensive end position is a position that requires the player to get around his opponent. It sounds simple, but it’s not. At all. Far from it, in fact. Of course a lineman can make a living on a bull rush, with crafty jab step, or upper echelon hand technique. Exploding off the line before an offensive lineman can get in his drop vertically though, is what makes players truly special. It takes a rare athlete who can bend around a corner while converting his initial burst into power as he initiates contact on the bend. This allows them to “put a lineman on skates” as it’s commonly referred to in the industry.
Originally a bit out of place in the Sooners 3-4 scheme, expect Tapper to be able to revert back to using his athleticism. This is the strength he used to his advantaged in his sophomore year. That was when he was considered a first round level talent as a 4-3 end. The Cowboys have been attempting to fill the RDE position in recent years with names like Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, and Jeremy Mincey, often seeing mixed results.
The chance to be an elite rusher off the edge who combines speed and power is certainly in the range of outcomes. Expect Tapper to be brought along slowly due to some lingering injuries he’s suffered in camp. Tapper, if he can get healthy, has a big opportunity in the first four games to make an impact. With Demarcus Lawerence (four games) and Gregory (four to ten games) suspended, it is up to Tapper to solidify his fate; the opportunity is there. There is also a unique opportunity to create awareness for his condition and lead by example, as well. With every successful play on the field, comes another opportunity to advocate for those affected by sickle cell trait. This makes it even easier to root for who he is, both on the field and off the field.
Sir Charles Tapper, Charles in Charge, Lord Tappenstein, C-Tap, Tap Water, and personal favorite, the Big Tapioca, are some of the hopeful nicknames Charles Tapper will inherit as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Whatever the nickname ends up being, Cowboys nation will be behind him every step of the way, waiting for him to tap into his full potential.