By Greg Markley

Opelika Observer

Growing up in Mobile, Charles Drinkard had a surprising choice as his mentor: Carl Davis, quarterback for the rival John L. Leflore Magnet High School. Drinkard is the quarterback who recently led the East Alabama Predators into an undefeated regular season that ended with a 38-22 playoff loss to the Florida Falcons in Jacksonville, Fla.

“Carl made sure that I was on the right path in every aspect of my life,” Drinkard recalled. “No matter how big or small my issues were, he made sure he listened and guided me in the right direction. It didn’t matter that he was on the other team; he would still reach out to us.”

Drinkard is presently developing his own mentoring program for youths in Opelika and throughout Lee County and its surrounding counties. He has been planning the program for three years. He was swept up with the idea during his senior year of high school: A child that was his neighbor would always ask Drinkard to play with him and shoot hoops.

“I then noticed that he did not have any guidance in his life,” Drinkard remembered. “I took it upon myself to help him with school work and help develop him as an athlete. That was the day I found my love for the youths and wanting them to succeed.”

Lee County native Hunter Price, who served as head coach/defensive coach this season, said it was wonderful to have a team with great athletes and top-notch coaches. “The gridiron development concept is the same to the NFL as ‘farm league baseball’ is to Major League Baseball,” Price explained. “These are guys who are trying to live out their dreams, and we are trying to help them get there.”

Drinkard’s plans echo that whole idea of shepherding people who are “trying to live out their dreams” and just need a little – and sometimes a big – push. He spent three years as backup quarterback for the Tuskegee University Golden Tigers and one year as a baseball starter and relief pitcher. He challenged himself academically as well, studying computer science.

“I am the creator and founder of Furthering Education for Our Youth, (,” Drinkard said. “I am working with Emily Brooks; she is using dance to help young women find an outlet and stay out of trouble in Columbus, Ga. One day soon I will see to it that every child I encounter graduates high school and gets into a secondary school to be successful in some sort of profession.”