Oklahoma defensive end Charles Tapper had an all together different challenge in front of him last year, when it seemed like his sickle cell trait was seriously affecting the way he played for the first time.
Sickle cell is a genetic disorder that can be dangerous during extreme activity – like playing football. It causes Tapper to become winded more quickly than other athletes and is something he has to monitor consistently.
He took that to heart in the offseason while preparing for his final season with Oklahoma. After the most productive regular season of his career and one that put him back on the radar of many NFL teams, Tapper seems to have found a balance with the disease.
“This offseason I had to work extra hard, knowing that I had sickle cell, knowing I had to be in better shape. Maybe I had to run extra gassers or run even harder than everybody. This past offseason, I made sure I was in the best shape possible.”
This season, Tapper finished with 45 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles. All were massive increases from his disappointing junior year and all except his 45 tackles were a career-high. Tapper had 49 tackles as a sophomore.
Tapper knows well when something is off. He has to take immediate action, knowing that things can become very serious if he doesn’t. The depth behind him has also given him confidence to come off the field when he needs to get a little bit extra oxygen or take a quick rest.
“The depth that we had on the D-line is really helping us out a lot,” Tapper said. “When I come off the field and we send D.J. Ward in, there’s no drop off. Knowing that D.J.’s going to come right in and keep the same play, it helps me out a lot to know that I can sit out two plays and get all my rest.”