Nov. 14, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky.- University of Louisville cornerback Charles Gaines has a personality that can light up a room. In addition to his quick wit and an ability to bring his teammates to their knees with his humor, Gaines has also brought the opposition to its knees with his ability to make game-changing plays.
Making the transition this year from wide receiver to the cornerback position, Gaines' playmaking ability has transformed the defense and special teams units. Last year, the Cardinals didn't make many big plays on defense or special teams, but insert Gaines' speed and athletic ability, and you have a playmaker.
The speedster, who openly stated "he runs with animals," has three touchdowns this season - two on special teams and one on defense. Gaines returned a kickoff 93 yards versus FIU, an interception 70 yards versus USF, and blocked a punt and returned it seven yards for a score against Connecticut.
"I put my team before anything," Gaines said in his first interview opportunity at Louisville. "I just go out there and try to be a playmaker. I get the opportunity to go against the best Monday through Friday."
As a redshirt freshman last season, Gaines made big plays on the offense as a wide receiver. He caught 11 passes for 171 yards and one score. His first play was a 55-yard reception against Missouri State and he had a 32-yard touchdown against North Carolina.
But Gaines' stay on the offensive side of the ball was short-lived, despite his ability to stretch the field and make catches downfield. This spring, Strong transitioned Gaines to defense and the move has paid off in a big way.
Second on the team in interceptions with three, Gaines has been a welcomed addition to the defensive backfield. The Cardinals have registered 13 interceptions this season, already surpassing last season's total of 10, and Louisville has the ability to tack on more with four games remaining on the docket.
"I rely on the players behind me," Gaines said. "We have outstanding safeties and a great defensive line. I just come out here and prepare and listen to our coaches. We have outstanding coaches. Before the play even starts, I know what the wide receiver is going to do, because of the coaching that we receive from the staff."
Head coach Charlie Strong recognized the deficiency of playmakers on defense and inserted Gaines into the secondary, and now the fourth-year head coach looks like a genius.
"Gaines has unbelievable athletic ability," Strong said. "He is one of the fastest players on the team and he is just a playmaker."
Most players would have squabbled at the switch to defense because of the belief there is less stardom, but Gaines' success is a reminder that stardom can be achieved opposite of offense.
"It was hard," Gaines said. "I like to put up points and score. I put my team before anything and just listened to what my coaches have said."
But Gaines hasn't complained. He has excelled. Along with the play of the defensive line, Gaines has been a pleasant surprise, but he attributes the success to the coaching of defensive coordinator Vance Bedford.
"I love playing for coach Bedford," Gaines said. "It's a wonderful experience. He's a great coach, but it's hard. It's tough love. One play he is good, and the next play he is on me. If he isn't talking to me, he doesn't care."
Gaines will continue to receive mentoring from his coaches. But the Florida native already has shown through his growth and success on defense, he can shine regardless of his place on the field.