He is awaiting final word from Coach Urban Meyer and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley if he will be allowed to finally play football. Taurean Charles says he's not the bad guy that he's been portrayed by the media and others. Last week, I talked with Taurean about his problems. We spent more than 30 minutes talking. He did not duck a single question.
This interview is Taurean's version of what went down that night and other events that have happened since he's been at Florida. This is a straight question and answer and not an attempt to take sides.
Here is Taurean Charles in his own words:
FB: Set the record straight. Give me your version of what happened that night at the party.
TC: It was just a big fight. We got invited there by the fraternity members. I helped them set some stuff up. We were watching some Jell-O wrestling and somebody starting throwing ice and stuff just started getting out of hand. I realized that two of my teammates --- Anthony Guerrero and Deshawn Wynn --- confronted this guy … I know who it is now, it was Dan Engle. He had been throwing ice at them and they told him to stop and next thing you know a big scuffle started. It was a big melee that started and then there's about 60-70 people involved. It's like their fraternity coming at about six or seven of us and shoving started into fighting. Well, fought back but we got out of there. A few weeks later, I get contacted by the police and they tell me that someone was injured at that party. That's the first I heard that anyone had gotten injured at that party. The police told me that this guy had been hit by a keg and he had suffered some damages, and this and that, and from there, he interviewed me, Guerrero and Deshawn. Then about five days later while I was working out and he (police officer) called and told me I needed to come down there. I've never been questioned like that before. I wasn't going to but Mike Spiegler from upstairs (University Athletic Association) told me I better go. I told him I didn't feel comfortable going down there alone but he told me to go again. I left, I went down there, and they asked me the same things again. They asked me if I dropped a keg on Dan Engle and I said no. They asked if I was fighting and I said, yes sir, I was fighting. From there they arrested me and I still didn't know why I was arrested. They just did it and said I was charged and didn't tell me why. I sat in jail for four days. Come to find out my coaches and lawyer tell me I should have never gone to the police station without someone to represent me. I didn't know that. Someone should have known that and told me. Mike Spiegler should have told me that I shouldn't go down there. I didn't know any better. He should have had someone go down there to assist me. Someone from UAA should have come down there but that didn't happen. The media got in on it and really blew it up to make me look like I started everything. I looked bad, but that's okay. What really gets me is how they made my family look bad. Ever since then I've been fighting this uphill battle against the court system and the university.
FB: Did you ever pick up a keg and throw it at Dan Engle?
TC: I did NOT pick up a keg and throw it at anyone.
FB: Was a keg picked up and thrown?
TC: They say that a keg was thrown but I don't know who it was. Someone came in to judicial affairs and said that someone had to throw the keg because there was a keg that was on the balcony, then they found it on the ground where a bunch of athletes had been standing around. James Morgan, who was the former president of the fraternity, admitted that there were a bunch of people and not just athletes around and it could have been anyone.
FB: For the record, you did not pick up a keg and throw it … is that what you are saying? You were charged with picking up a keg, throwing it at Dan Engle and injuring him. And was that charge subsequently dropped?
TC: The charge was dropped. The state did not agree that there was any evidence that any guy had dropped a keg to injure Mr. Engle. They said there wasn't evidence that I had done it but they gave me a charge of culpable negligence which is a misdemeanor since I admitted I was there and fighting and I was on probation. Since someone got hurt and there was a fight and I was on probation and part of the fight, I got a misdemeanor charge, but the state said there wasn't evidence that I had thrown any keg and there weren't any witnesses who could say I had done it. I didn't do it.
FB: Now, I've been told that after things broke out with Deshawn and Guerrero, you got hit between the eyes with what can only be described as a chunk of ice and that you pointed at the guy, responded and told him he better be cool. Then all hell broke loose and you were in the middle. What do you say to that?
TC: This is what's so stupid about what happened. I was trying to stop what had already been started and was going over there to see if I could get something stopped and I got hit. We're big guys and we lift weights every day and we're way stronger and bigger than these little preppy guys from the fraternity. This guy throws ice and hits me between the eyes and then he's telling me "I don't care how big you are, I can kick your ass!" And I said F#%k it, don't mess with me and even though he's 150 pounds or so and I'm probably 100 pounds heavier, he comes at me swinging. Yeah, I swung back and I got into the fight and that's how it started. These guys had their beer muscles bulging, a lot of liquid courage.
FB: Are you amazed that you were the only one who got arrested out of this? There were plenty of people who could have been arrested. There's no question there was a big fight but the charges against you have been dropped except that you were on probation and you shouldn't have been fighting. But no one else got arrested. Does this make you wonder?
TC: Even when I was sitting in jail and then I got out, and I just had a judicial hearing that they said the only reason they had to get involved is because there were two UF students involved in something and there were so many more than two UF students involved than just me. I'm like the only person that got singled out and then everyone is reporting that I went on this rampage beating people up. Besides the athletes there were plenty of other students involved like Timothy Lyons and Paul Raven and all these people who were fighting who claimed to be witnesses for the alleged victim. They were fighting too and they were fighting long before I got involved, so why were there no disciplinary actions taken against them? Is it the football players won so they get penalized and since we lost, we're the fraternity brothers and you got to take pity on us. This isn't just one guy that was involved in something. They were involved in this too.
FB: You've been painted as a bad guy in the media and public perception. What would you say to the people who say you're a bad guy?
TC: There's so much I want to say to people who say I'm a bad guy. I can tell you don't judge a book by its cover or assume you know just because you've read one side of the story in the newspaper. I grew up in a hostile environment where there were drugs, people who got shot. I escaped out of that environment without ever having been arrested or any kind of trouble with the law and I did it because I'm from a good family, a Christian family. Most people don't know it but my dad was a teacher for 25 years and a school principle for five years. Education was instilled into me by two Christian parents who care. I just want to say is that the media writes what they think sells as far as Taurean Charles did this or Taurean Charles did that. They did it to sell papers, I guess. I'm here at the University of Florida. I've made grades and I'm in good academic standing. I want to play football. I'm not the bad guy who goes out and starts any trouble. I want to win a starting position and play football. I just want people to do this: don't judge me if you don't know me.
FB: You told me that you have had a conversation with Coach Meyer and Coach Meyer has said that he would do what he can to help you. Are you waiting a chance to talk to him again to see if he's able to get you a chance to play again.
TC: A couple of months ago I talked to Coach Meyer just to let him know what was going on with my situation. It was the middle of a new coaching change. I thought Coach Zook was going to be here but obviously things changed and he wasn't. I went to Coach Meyer and I said, Coach I want to be here. These are my circumstances. This is what's going on. He just basically said that "I don't know you and you don't know me. All I know is what people have told me and what I have read. What you can show me and everyone is to prove what's been said is wrong." The thing that I started a fight or that I threw the keg, well that's been proven wrong as far as downtown because they said that I am not the person that did this to Mr. Engle. They charged me with culpable negligence for being in a fight while I was on probation. They say I made a wrong decision for fighting and that I should have gotten out of there when the fight started because I was on probation. Coach Meyer said I had to talk to Jeremy Foley first before he can do anything, so I have tried to talk to Jeremy Foley and then he tells me to talk to Coach Meyer. Well, Coach Meyer said get the legal problems taken care of and make it right. I have taken care of every single legal problem that's out there and I feel I'm getting some kind of run around. I didn't ask for this stuff to happen but it did happen, and I've been man enough to handle it straight up. I haven't tried to duck responsibility. I haven't tried to lie my way out of anything. When someone's asked me what happened, I've told them truthfully and if you check the statements I've made, they don't change and that's why I'm done with it and I've been cleared of hurting Mr. Engle or throwing a beer keg at anyone. I'm still on scholarship. I'm still in school. I still have two years of eligibility. Did I make someone mad at me? Do I need to say I'm sorry to someone in our administration? What do I need to do? Can someone just tell me what I need to do?
FB: Okay, let's talk about the reason you got on probation. You got charged with shoving a woman in the chest. At first you were charged with hitting her, then the story changed to say you shoved her in the chest. When everything was settled, the girl said she wasn't hurt and that the two of you just got into a very physical argument … but again, no one got hurt. You got probation and had to go the anger management route. What do you say about that?
TC: Well, most people don't know but that was my ex-girlfriend and we just hadn't been getting along. We got into an argument and she really got mad. Her roommate was sitting there typing on her computer at the same time this happened. She pushed me and I shoved her back and said don't push me. She said leave and I did. That was the end of it but a little while later, the police came and said they wanted to talk to me about what happened. I didn't get arrested but they filed a report. If there had been any damage to her or if she had been hurt in any way, the police told me they would have arrested me right there. There would have been no question about it. If I had brutally beaten this young woman, as some people think I did, do you think I would have never gotten arrested? Obviously, I didn't get arrested. Obviously, nothing severe happened that night. A complaint got filed and it was filed when she was still mad at me, but the police knew she wasn't hurt and knew I didn't hurt her. They knew we just had an argument and it got a little loud and we did shove each other. That's true. I don't deny it, but I sure didn't brutally beat her like I've heard people say I did. I didn't hit her. I didn't. The police told me that they had to put me in the anger management stuff because I put my hands on her and that I shouldn't have done that to a woman even if she had shoved me first. She admitted that she shoved me first, too. Anyway, I got a battery charge even though the university dropped the charges because they didn't believe anything had happened, but they have to send in reports to the State Attorney and the State Attorney says that because I put my hands on her, I get a misdemeanor battery charge that gets me probation and anger management.
FB: Now, let's talk a little bit more about how things got out of hand. Channing (Crowder) has told me that if he sees a teammate in trouble, he's got your back immediately. Did something like this happen?
TC: Coach Zook preached it to us from day one that we're a team, that we're all together and it don't matter if it's black, white, big guy or little guy. If you're on the team, you stick up for one another. If a teammate's in trouble, you help. The team's a family. I had no anger or no aggression to those fraternity boys, but when I saw my teammates having to fight their way out of trouble, I was there. I admit it. I was there. I was fighting. But, I didn't start it. Three or four guys were on top of Deshawn Wynn and four or so guys on top of Anthony Guerrero, and they're trying to hurt them with their fists and kicking them and all that s#%t. Now I know I'm on probation but I'm sorry, you're hitting up on my teammates, guys who are my family, I'm going to try to get it stopped, and if you start hitting on me, I'm hitting back. I'm going to help my teammates. I'm not going to run away. Maybe I'm being made an example of because there were some troubles by a lot of Florida athletes and they have to have someone they can make an example of or make a scapegoat or something like that. I've got two misdemeanor charges. Channing got the same thing. Steven Harris got the same thing. Mo Mitchell got into all kinds of things. None of them got kicked off the team. None of them got threatened with their scholarships being snatched.
FB: Was your scholarship taken away? I heard that you are still on scholarship.
TC: When this incident first happened, Jeremy Foley took my scholarship. I had to plead and go to Karen Fowlkes to get a partial scholarship so I could stay in school.
FB: Are you still on a partial scholarship or have they given you back your full scholarship?
TC: I am still on a partial. I have books, housing and food covered but I don't get the tutors or the other things that the athletes have. They've pretty much cut me off from the team.
FB: How about the classroom? Are you in good standing?
TC: I've got a 2.3 and that's after having a terrible fall when I had to miss classes and tests trying to get the legal things straightened out. I was more concerned with my life than missing classes. I was missing classes to see my attorney because if I get a felony for trying to hurt someone with a beer keg, I go to prison, so yeah, you damn right I missed a lot of class, but I'm still at a 2.3 even though I had all that to deal with. I had meetings with Coach Zook, meetings with Jeremy Foley. I had to go pick up my mom and take her back to the bus station or the train station when she'd come up here to be with me for these meetings. So my grades took a dive but not so bad that I'm ineligible. Take the stress away and take all the missed classes away and you'll see. I'm a decent student and I work hard to get my grades. It's been a rough eight months.
FB: Are you going to try to get this matter straightened out with Coach Meyer and Foley so you can either get back with the team or get on with your life somewhere else?
TC: That's what I'm going to do, but one thing I want everyone to know. I always wanted to be a Gator. That's all I ever wanted to be from the time I was about 10-11 years old. This was my dream to be a Gator. Jevon Kearse was one of my favorite players and he came to one of my high school games and he told me that there's nothing like being a Gator and that Florida's where I wanted to be. Even though Coach Spurrier left, when Coach Zook came to my high school and said we want you that was it. He didn't have no sales job to do. Soon as they came there I said, yeah, I'm coming to Florida. I'm glad I'm a Gator, but I'm ready for this nightmare to be over. I've got a lot of good football in me. I just need to know if they want me here. If not, I've got to get on with life. I'm not the bad guy. Believe me, I'm not the bad guy.