Charles Tapper looks for revival

Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper is making changes that he hopes bring him success

Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper wants to be a role model for the kids in his hometown of Baltimore, a place where there aren’t too many good role models right now.

He wants to build an athletic facility to get kids off the streets in a city that has nearly 10 times the violent crime rate of the entire country.

He wants to make the NFL, a thought that invade his mind far too often last season.

But first, he had to change his cell phone number because with the junior season that Tapper had, he wasn’t going to accomplish any of it..

“It’s the little things that I didn’t focus on last year, blocking everything out,” Tapper said of the distractions that caused him to have a sub-par season riddled with disappointments. “I changed my phone number, so nobody has it. The only people that have it are people that I really need to talk to – like the coaches, the guys on the team.”

Changing his number won’t fix all of Tapper’s problems from last season, which saw a drop in every major statistical category. He’s focusing on changing his mental approach.

Tapper, a player whose athletic gifts have never been questioned, has rededicated himself to the film room, to going through mental reps to understand backfield sets and to working to recognize footwork on the offensive line.

The little things that he ignored a bit last year. Instead, Tapper said he played the game for all the wrong reasons – consumed by the idea of playing in the NFL.

“This year, I don’t even know if I’m going to play in the NFL,” said Tapper, who acknowledged that he probably would have lost his starting spot if Oklahoma had more depth behind him last year. “You’ve gotta work hard to get what you deserve. Last year, I thought I could walk on the field and people were just gonna bow down to me.

“You’ve gotta go out there and defeat the man in front of you. . . . Last year, I stopped myself more than it was people stopping me.”

Tapper said he wasn’t the only one distracted by the allure of the NFL last season. He’s still growing in the game, having played at a technic-based level for just three years at Oklahoma after making the transition from basketball in high school.

In the Sugar Bowl, Tapper ran down Alabama receiver Amari Cooper – a play he remembers fondly and with a little bit of remorse. He knows that he’s capable of making plays just like that despite being diagnosed with the Sickle Cell Trait, a disease caused by a gene mutation that can leave athletes susceptible to dehydration and even death unless watched closely.

“It didn’t hold me back for 21 years, so what’s stopping me now?” Tapper said.

That’s what the hope is for Tappers final season: Putting everything behind him that stopped him last year – self-made or otherwise.

The superficial concerns of last season are behind him. No worries about being an All-American for even an All-Big 12 performer. He’s not even considering going to the NFL.

“I’m not worried about none of that,” Tapper said. “It’s a team thing for me, and I feel like if I do that, everything else will fall into place.”

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