Charlie High has returned to Tennessee

Marvin WestWest Knox, westwords

Charlie probably thinks I have forgotten.


Charlie High led Christian Academy of Knoxville to TSSAA football championships in 2011 and 2012. His statistics were just a little above fantastic – state records for career completions (744), passing yards (10,978), touchdowns (131) and total offense (11,371). He completed 74.4 percent.

Charlie High

Charlie dreamed big dreams. He wanted to play quarterback at the University of Tennessee. I thought he had a chance.

I remember what I really liked – his desire and determination. He had been told too many times that the odds were stacked against him. He just wasn’t big enough, five feet, 11 and seven/eighths inches tall in thick socks and maybe 175 pounds with rocks in his pockets. He and I decided naysayers had never heard of Doug Flutie.

Charlie was somewhere down the list among Tennessee’s prospective recruits. Derek Dooley and Jim Chaney knew who he was. His dad, famous dental surgeon Bill High, was a four-time all-American hurdler for the Volunteers, one of the all-time greats. His mother, Joyce, played basketball at Carson-Newman. Tim Burchett, former mayor turned congressman, is an uncle.

The coaches were courteous.

“They just said that I’m on their board and they’re looking to see what I can do,” High said at the time.

Ultimately, Dooley made a decision. Chaney called to say the Vols were going in a different direction.

Both coaches went different directions, too. Dooley was fired before the end of that season. Butch Jones arrived as the replacement. Chaney went off to Arkansas as offensive coordinator.

Alabama assistant Lance Thompson volunteered an opinion. He said that if Charlie was 6-3, he’d be a top-10 quarterback.

High was not successful at growing taller. He worked to get stronger. He received two or three scholarship offers but was disappointed that big coaches at big schools didn’t call. He became a preferred walk-on at Tennessee. Coaches told him what they tell everybody, that he’d get a chance.

Charlie had smarts and courage to go with his records. A lot of us wished him well.

In the summer of 2013, he took a long, hard look at who else was wearing orange – Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, Josh Dobbs and Riley Ferguson. Charlie gained perspective and transferred to Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles really wanted him.

He didn’t stay long. His heart was at UT. He returned as a student. For the first time in a long time, “athlete” was no longer part of his title.

I lost track of Charlie for a few years. I don’t know why I was looking but I eventually spotted his name on a graduation list, UT degree in communications studies. He next appeared on the support staff at North Carolina, recruiting evaluations assistant for Mack Brown.

I had no idea he had moved to the University of Central Florida as a support person for Josh Heupel. He was helping Brandon Lawson, another UT graduate, analyze high school tapes. High was also involved in numerous administrative tasks with the coaching staff. He is very capable. He has a great attitude. What else could he do to help?

The next surprise? Soon after Heupel got the Tennessee job, he told Charlie to jump into his pickup truck and take off to Knoxville. High is not high on the current list of associates but he is high on my list.

Charlie, 27, has probably forgotten the story I wrote in 2013 and the sincere thank-you note he wrote in response. I haven’t. I don’t think I will. I don’t get many thank-you notes.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

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