Dungy, former Dawgs counselled Charles

Junior tight end Orson Charles told reporters in a conference call Wednesday that he would forgo his senior season with the Georgia Bulldogs and declare himself eligible for the 2012 NFL draft.

“I will be entering the draft,” Charles said. “I just felt like I met the majority of all my goals. I felt like I have grown spiritually. Like Coach [Mark] Richt says, that is the first thing you have to do. I felt like I have grown as a player. And just praying about it, I felt like, with my family situation, I was read to enter the draft.”

With the Jan. 15 deadline for declaring just days away, Charles rather recently made his choice.

“Yesterday was when I finally came to the decision.” Charles said. “Coach Richt was the first guy I called.”

The decision was not unexpected, as Charles is projected as one of the top tight ends for the 2012 draft. Charles was mum on where he expects to be drafted.

“I think I will keep that between me and the NFL,” Charles said. “What they gave me I felt real confident in, so that is why I made my decision to come out.”

He leaned on his mentor, Dr. Ala-Ahir Rogers, as well as some professional contacts and many former Georgia players to help him make his choice.

“One of the main persons I stayed in contact with -- I called him like every day and when I get off the phone I have to thank him -- was Tony Dungy.” Charles said. “He was there for me. We had a meeting with him and my family. Ben Watson came over after the game and talked with me. Randy McMichael, D.J. Ware, Dustin Keller, Vernon Davis, Mike Williams and Mike Moore -- there were a lot of people that helped me make this decision. I want to thank them too.”

Charles obviously sought a great deal of advice, but one person was the most instrumental voice in the process.

“The main person I kept in contact with was my mom,” Charles said.

Notably absent was an appeal from former high school teammate and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray for Charles to stay one more year.

“To tell you the truth, Aaron didn’t persuade me one way or the other.” Charles said, “He was like, ‘Orson, I am happy for you. I can’t believe it is really happening. We came in together, we played high school ball.’ He was just happy for me. The No. 1 thing he said was, ‘Just don’t forget about me. Send me a shirt or something.’ So I am definitely going to take care of my quarterback.”

During his three years at Georgia, Charles amassed 1370 yards on 94 catches with 10 touchdowns. He averaged more than 14.5 yards per catch. Charles would often disappear in games, including the Jan. 2 Outback Bowl, in which he had only one catch for two yards, but that was mainly because of the Bulldogs needing him as an additional blocker on the suspect offensive line.

This season Charles garnered several national awards. He was a finalist for the John Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end. He was named an All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and the Walter Camp Foundation.

Bulldogs fans hoping that Charles might just be testing the water will be disappointed.

“I haven’t signed with an agent and that is what we are going to do right now,” Charles said. “I have the Walter Camp [Weekend] I have to go to tomorrow and I will be back Sunday. Then I will pack my bags and go back home.”

Once he's home, Charles and his mentor will decide on who will best represent him going forward.

Charles, who graduated from Plant High School in Tampa, was named First Team All-SEC by ESPN.com, The Associated Press and the SEC Coaches.

Bulldogs joining Charles in the NFL draft so far are seniors Brandon Boykin, Justin Anderson, Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn, Drew Butler, DeAngelo Tyson and Blair Walsh. Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Glenn on his 2012 draft Big Board at the No. 12 spot.

The departure of Charles and the graduation of Aron White will open up the competition at tight end. Redshirt junior Arthur Lynch will likely be the Bulldogs’ first option.

“Briefly talking to [Lynch] last night and talking to him today, he is fired up, he is ready,” Charles said. “I am excited to see how he handles this whole thing.”