Former Bulldogs Orson Charles and Ben Jones briefly caught up when they squared off against each other in the NFL postseason three weeks ago. Now, the pair has all spring to reminisce.
Charles and Jones returned to Athens this semester to work toward their degrees in housing and education, respectively. Getting back into the full swing of life as a student, however, has been more of a challenge than they thought.
“It’s a little different,” Charles, now a tight end for the Cincinnati Bengals, said. “I don’t really know a lot of people around campus. The people that I went to class with have already left, so there are a lot of new faces.”
Charles said that one of the toughest transitions was adjusting to the amount of free time he now has. His daily routine in the NFL was a 12-hour affair that started at 6:45 a.m. Now, his classes begin as late as 11 a.m. and release as early as noon, giving the tight end ample time to study, train or just “chill.”
Charles added that there were some similarities between life on campus and in the NFL, citing that the Bengals’ position meetings were quite comparable to a classroom atmosphere.
“I’m used to working with my iPad, where the plays are right there, and I’m writing my little notes down when the coaches are going through some key points,” Charles said. “Now the teachers are talking throughout the whole class, and you’ve got to make sure you keep up with it because that slide might not be on eLC [the university’s learning software].”
Charles still has a ways to go before completing his degree, though. He’s taking 15 credit hours this spring — the most he’s taken at once — and will have to do so again before finishing with a lighter class load. In total, he should fulfill all requirements after two more semesters.
Jones, on the other hand, is much closer to finishing. After taking 10 credit hours this spring, Jones will have a semester of student-teaching in front of him before becoming a Georgia graduate. Jones said that he might return to Athens to complete those responsibilities but that he has the option to do so in Houston, where he plays for the Texans.
Jones also said that his return to school has generated even more respect from his teammates, particularly because he said he was the lone Houston Texans player to do so this spring.
“They were like, ‘Wow.’” Jones said. “I think every kid says that they’re going to come back and finish, but actually going through with it shows a little character.”
Like Charles, Jones said the toughest transition to the pro level was one off the field.
“I just missed my friends,” Jones said. “You don’t have that bond that you do when four or five guys are living in the same house. You really don’t hang out in the locker rooms or go grab dinner with the guys after practice like you did in college.”
But Jones said that he and his fellow Texan offensive lineman built a strong relationship by season’s end and that the group was a great help in his transition to other positions on the line — something he hadn’t done since his senior year of high school. It appeared to prove beneficial, as the 2011 All-American earned a start at right guard in the team’s wildcard playoff win over Charles’ Bengals.
There is no love lost between the two, however, even though Charles’ season ended that day.
“I wasn’t going to trash talk to Ben,” Charles said. “We felt that we were going to win. Our defense was real hot, so we thought we were going to shut them down. At the end of the day, we lost. We’ve got to get back, regroup and hopefully go further next year.”
Both are excited about their respective careers in front of them. But they are also, once again, enjoying life as a student.