Boulder, Colo. — At 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, Hugh Charles certainly doesn't look like a high-caliber running back.
He doesn't even act like one. The Colorado Buffaloes senior enjoys flying airplanes and studying Buddhism.
But the soft-spoken Keller, Texas, native turns into a different person on the football field. And he has been a big reason for the Buffs' turnaround this season. His 522 rushing yards lead the team.
Still, it has been a long, strange trip for the senior. He was one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the country out of high school. When he arrived in Boulder as a freshman, he saw limited playing time. His sophomore season, he broke out in a big way, leading the team in rushing.
Then it seemed to spiral down.
"When I first came up here, especially sophomore and junior year, I was a little nervous coming in. I think that was lack of confidence," Charles said. "Coaching change didn't help (when Dan Hawkins replaced Gary Barnett before the 2006 season). Sharing time with other guys, too, didn't help. I felt my junior year I was going to be the big dog. It didn't happen for me, so my confidence level was low."
His junior year the team slipped to 2-10. Charles ran for only 779 yards and one touchdown a year after running for 842 yards and six touchdowns.
In their second season under Hawkins, the Buffs - and Charles - have turned things around with a 4-3 record.
"We were still in a little rotation and somebody had to come out and prove the coaches wrong, it had to be me," Charles said of the offseason depth chart shake-up. "Because this is my last year, this is what I came here for. Prove myself, prove to my family and friends."