Or at least very close to it.
Charles sat behind elite backs in high school at St. Thomas Aquinas (FL) and later at FAU. Now, he’s working with the starters for the first time in years.
“It feels amazing, just to see how far I’ve came from being a freshman, barely knowing the offense or anything, and now I’m going into my redshirt-junior season knowing the offense pretty well, and being able to take a lot of reps with the ones,” Charles said. “It’s a great feeling.”
It’s also a feeling he isn’t accustomed to.
Charles wasn’t the most touted running back in high school. He was outshined by Florida’s Jordan Scarlett as a junior, and shared the workload with Nevada’s Jaxson Kincaide and Utah’s Devonta’e Henry-Cole as a senior.
That trend followed him to FAU, where he played behind Houston Texans running back Buddy Howell, and NFL prospects Devin Singletary and Kerrith Whyte.
But he didn’t quit. He didn’t transfer. Those thoughts never crossed his mind. The talent around him instead served as motivation.
“Competition is fun, it brings the best out of you,” Charles said. “When you see a guy in your room who makes plays it makes you want to make plays; he busts an 80-yard run, ‘Hey, I’m going to go do that, too. I’ll meet you in the end zone.’”
Those meetings could be commonplace this year.
Despite carrying the ball only three times over two collegiate seasons, Charles is getting a legitimate shot at sharing first-team duties with former Alabama running back B.J. Emmons.
“Guys may be buried, but they stay long and end up playing, and fighting through things,” Kiffin said. “And so, we want to give him a lot of opportunity because he has been here, and not just throw new guys ahead of him.”
If an FAU running back coming out of nowhere to explode for huge numbers sounds familiar, it’s because it happened last year.
Whyte was mostly a kick returner – albeit a dynamic one – before 2018. But he dominated as a runner a season ago, gaining 866 yards and eight touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry.
Watching Whyte progress from part-time contributor to full-time star was a “big motivation” for Charles. And it inspired him to follow in Whyte’s lightning-quick footsteps.
“I think I could do the same thing, because he was a guy who focused on the details, and was very consistent,” Charles said.
Those two attributes are what Charles learned most from playing with Whyte and Singletary.
Whether he’s reading blitzes in pass protection or planting his feet on a cutback, they taught Charles that being good isn’t good enough; only perfection is. And that focus isn’t only on game days.
“When they came to practice, they treated it like it was a game, every single practice,” Charles said. “And that’s what I’m learning now, that’s how you get better. If you practice scoring 80-yard runs at practice, that’s what’s going to happen in the game.”
Charles could have left in search of bigger role, either in high school or college. But he took the advice of a loved one, and it’s paying off.
“My mama always said, ‘stay down until you come up,’” Charles said. “And that’s what’s pretty much what’s happening right now.”