Weekend changed Tapper's life

Cory Robinson saw something special in Charles Tapper (Baltimore/City College) long before anyone at the University of Oklahoma did.

Along with Devin Reed, Robinson is co-founder of Next Level Nation -- a Maryland-based company with a mission to help high school athletes excel on-and-off-the-field -- and he knew Tapper could be an Division I football prospect with some seasoning. So he put him through some quick training and helped get him an invite to the Army All-American Combine in San Antonio in 2011.

"We had about two weeks [to try to get him ready] and all it took was two weeks of time," said Robinson, who also coaches at Calvert Hall College (Md.) High School. "And he took it from there."

Yet, it sounds easier than it was.

An OU commitment, Tapper is essentially a blank canvas, having never played football -- he grew up playing basketball -- until his junior year of high school. And even then, he wasn't playing defensive end.

"When I first started playing football, they put me at receiver," Tapper said. "[So at defensive end] I didn't know any technique. I took one week and learned one move."

Tapper's limited football experience and zero combine experience before he began working with Robinson meant they had to start with the basics.

"Charles never knew what one-on-ones [position workouts] looked like," said Robinson, who played football at Central Connecticut State. "He began working with us on combine stuff because he had never been to a combine, never ran a 40-yard dash."

But early in his training it became clear that Tapper was unique.

"About three days into our training, we kind of knew, this guy's not your typical basketball guy that's switched to football," Robinson said. "He's a football guy who was playing basketball."

In a matter of weeks, Tapper went from having no idea what one-on-one position workouts looked like to going head-to-head against some of the nation's top juniors.

And he excelled.

"I didn't even really use moves at the combine I just used my speed to run by people," Tapper said. "When we went to one-on-ones -- I don't want to be cocky -- but I was kind of destroying a guy. And I didn't really have any moves, I was using pure quickness. I didn't use my hands, just used my feet."

Said Robinson: "I kept a close eye on him; we all wanted to see what he had. He didn't know what he was doing, but there was definitely a bit of subconscious ability that was taking over."

Tapper caught the eye of OU defensive end coach Bobby Jack Wright, who saw film of Tapper's exploits. Shortly thereafter, Wright contacted him and the rest is history. After the coach built a solid bond with him, Tapper committed and will sign with the Sooners today.

"Charles hasn't even hit the tip of the iceberg of his potential," Robinson said. "He's very excited about football and learning football."

For OU's most overlooked commit, one weekend changed his life forever.

"I still didn't really realize until Friday," Tapper said. "It really hit me that I'm one of the premier players in the country and have the opportunity to play at Oklahoma.

"There are guys around the country with more technique than me but I'm just more athletic, I guess. God-given talent."

God-given talent that was molded with the help of Robinson and utilized to change Tapper's life.

"That weekend in San Antonio will forever stand out to him as a life-altering experience," Robinson said. "It's a great venue for guys to come with a dream and walk away with a future."

Brandon Chatmon covers University of Oklahoma sports and recruiting for SoonerNation. He can be reached at bchatmonespn@gmail.com.

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