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July 8, 2004News broke Tuesday night that Port Arthur Memorial running back Jamaal Charles could be within hours of committing to The University of Texas and after a follow-up call Wednesday night, Longhorn fans can celebrate knowing that the deal has been sealed.
Charles, who had been trying to get in touch with members of the UT staff on Tuesday to give a verbal pledge, confirmed that he spoke with Mack Brown on Wednesday evening to make his commit official.
"I talked to him at about 8:20 and I told him I made my decision and I wanted to come to Texas," Charles confirmed. "He said he had tried to e-mail me and he was excited and he congratulated me."
The pledge, UT's sixth of the year, gives the Longhorns a recruiting coup from one of the state's most electrifying prospects. Also a star on the track, Charles is one of the fastest players in the Lone Star State and he's a legitimate home run threat every time he touches the ball.
"Jamaal has the ability to run the ball and do it at a high level," said Memorial head coach Dean Colbert. "He also has great speed, so if he gets in the open, he can really hurt you."
Rated as the country's 11th-best tailback prospect and a four-star prospect, Charles' pledge continues a strong early-season recruiting run that has seen the Longhorns secure commitments from some of the nation's top prospects. It's also a big shot in the arm for the Texas offense's future after not inking a pure tailback in last year's recruiting class.
"Coach (Mike) Haywood said they like to use about three running backs in every game," Charles said. "And because Cedric Benson is leaving, he said I would get the opportunity to play early."
In preparation Charles said he's determined to work on every aspect of his game, and he realizes he's going to have to pick some things up on the fly.
"I want to work on everything and improve my technique," he said. "I know I'll need help. Nobody's perfect and I'm going to mess up, but I'm going to learn from my mistakes. Then I'll get better through the years.
"Looking at my tape, I think I explode through the holes but in some of them I didn't do it as much in the fourth quarter because I was tired. In college, you have to be in shape because that's when defenses get tired and you can wear them down."
One thing that could slow his progress, at least temporarily, is a recent arthroscopic surgical procedure that Charles had performed on a shoulder that's been bothering him for some time. The injuries, which came in the forms of frequent shoulder dislocations, were something that Charles chose to keep silent about last year but he said the excruciating pain they caused were eventually too much to take.
"It's hurt me since I was small but last year it really bothered me. It was so painful I'd come home and cry because it hurt so bad. At night it would pop out so I was just ready to get it fixed.
Despite the injury, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound speedster rushed for 2,051 yards and 27 scores for Memorial, earning first-team all-district, first-team all-Greater Houston and honorable mention all-state honors.
"In the games, nobody really understood how bad it hurt," said Charles. "I think some people on the sidelines and our coaches were the only ones that realized I was playing through pain."
Charles is schedule to start rehabbing next week and goes back to the doctor on August 13 to find out when he'll be released to play.
"My doctor said I should be back for district play so that's a comfort for me. The district games are the ones that count so I'm trying to come back and rebuild and help take my team to state."