But Charles’s football coaches saw potential. And during his junior year at William Campbell High School in Gladys, Virginia those coaches started planting seeds. “Coaches started saying I could go to college,” Charles says. Out of those seeds grew dreams.
Charles’s athletic talent got him to James Madison University; professors and tutors and hours of hard work got him out. Because Charles had never really mastered basic reading, writing, and math, his skills lagged far behind his college classmates. He realized he had to put in just as much effort off the field as on it. “I made C’s and I worked so hard to earn those C’s,” he says.
Charles made it to the NFL, and succeeded unlike any other player in history — no one else has won five world championships. He is forever proud of that accomplishment. Yet he regrets his disregard for the fundamentals of education. “I still lack in reading and writing, but it isn’t for lack of trying,” he says.
He created the “Tackle Tomorrow” fund to buy computers, fund instructors, and install an educational software program called Istation in after school programs. Many children are already using Istation within their classrooms. Charles wants to extend the reach of a program with a proven record of success.
He believes kids can only dream about tackling tomorrow if they’re given the tools today.
“Kids can say, ‘I’m poor, I live in a bad area.’ That’s an excuse. If they have these tools and take advantage, they can achieve phenomenal results,” he says. “Education is so much power. You have to unlock it. The only way to unlock it is through reading and math. You have to be a dreamer, like me.”