Meet Joe Charles, a 6-foot-6-inch, 350-pound Silver Spring, Md. native with the prototypical size and talent of a pile-driving NFL offensive lineman. Unfortunately for Charles, he hasn’t received the same exposure most prospects receive upon entry to the pro level.

While most of the 300-pounders seen colliding into each other on NFL Sundays come from powerhouse collegiate athletic conferences such as the Southeastern Conference (SEC) or the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Charles dominated on a much smaller stage.

After attending junior college, the 25-year-old played two seasons for the Glenville State College Pioneers under the direction of head coach Alan Fiddler. Charles helped Glenville State win the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) championship in 2008 and earned All-WVIAC 1st team honors in 2009. He led his team with more than 100 knockdowns in his senior year, which helped him rank amongst the top 60 offensive linemen listed in the 2010 NFL Draft.

But despite being one of very few Division II football players listed on the Profootballweekly.com NFL prospects list, Charles wasn’t drafted or signed by an NFL team this offseason. Charles hasn’t quit yet, however. He signed earlier this summer with the Richmond Revolution of the Indoor Football League after graduating from Glenville State.

Revolution head coach Steve Criswell coached Charles during the WVIAC All-Star Game and couldn’t help notice his talent. “Besides his obvious size and skills as a run blocker, Joe has excellent leadership skills,” coach Criswell told the AFRO. “He was a stand-up leader throughout the entire All-Star game experience, so when I noticed him at one of our games at the end of the season, I had to get him on my team.”

Charles wasn’t offered a contract until June, but because the IFL’s season runs from spring through summer, he was still able to contribute to the team’s postseason play. The Richmond Revolution had an outstanding 13-1 record this past season led by former Virginia Tech star quarterback and 2010 IFL MVP Bryan Randall. The Revolution earned a trip to the playoffs, but lost to the Rochester Raiders, 26-24, in the first round.

Charles says he’s already waiting for the 2011 season to start. “I’m ready to get back on the field and continue proving why I belong,” said Charles, who will more than likely take on the vital responsibility of protecting his quarterback’s blindside. “The game is a little different than what I played in college, but I can handle the challenge.”

Indoor football is different from standard American football because the field is only 50 yards long and about 85 feet wide. Indoor football also allows only eight players from each team to take the field each play versus the 11-on-11 format of the NFL.

With a much shorter, less-wide field, indoor football appears much faster than the style of football Charles has played throughout most of his career. But he thinks playing at this speed will help him when he does finally make it to the next level. “The game is so fast so I have to get out in my blocking stance quicker and make my run blocks with more explosion,” Charles told the AFRO.

He also mentioned how former NFL MVP Kurt Warner once dominated indoor football and how it helped him become a better player once he made it to the NFL.

“Warner is best known for his quick passing release, and that’s something he had to develop just to survive in an indoor football environment,” Charles said, “so maybe I’ll develop some good habits here that will help me defenders off quarterbacks like Warner.”

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor