I took the trolley to meet Jeff on campus. The sun was warm. Beads swayed from old Louisiana oaks. Mardi Gras remnants. I could hear faint music coming from the quad. Spotting Jeff in the distance, he looked every part scholar. I am sure fellow co-eds would never guess that he once ran through smoke-filled tunnels. That he once commanded a stage of thousands. That he had a Super Bowl ring tucked away in his top drawer. His hair is long and pulled back into a ponytail, and his gait is purposeful. Still carrying today's lecture in his mind, his brow is creased, but on seeing me, he immediately warms and graciousness is apparent.
The photo shoot is quick and carefree. He does not pose and has no airs about him. When I have him hold a book, he can't help but read it. When I ask him to look away in thought, he thinks. Therefore, in a matter of minutes, we're done with all that nonsense. More than anything, Jeff Charleston wants to talk about football, Reagan and how both have impacted his life. When we get to talking, his eyes glare and dart between intensity and childlike amazement.
He credits his conditioned work ethic and his sense of personal obligation back to his childhood days in Oregon. His family had packed up their big-city lives in Atlanta, and set off for his great-grandparent's farm, when he was 12. It was a move motivated by family devotion. With them, they brought three able bodies, who could help lessen the burden of the farm. Jeff jumped in without question, without complaint. There was work to be done, before and after school. He never thought about it. He just got it done. He plowed the fields, loaded hay, fed the animals and milked the cows. He caught on quick and grew up quicker. By seventh grade he had long passed the 6-foot mark and with the good old fashioned farm work, his body had become strong and agile. He may have been a newcomer on the fields of Oregon, yet there waited, after the work was done, a field of a different sort that he knew all too well. Back in Atlanta, football had started for Jeff in second grade. In Oregon, organized ball doesn't start until seventh grade. He was a seasoned player before any of his teammates had snapped their first chin straps on.
She shines, like her collection. When Reagan Charleston opens the heavy wooden door of her Mandeville home, she glows with welcome. Natural light warms the neutral colors of her foyer and dances in her eyes. She has created a personal masterpiece by surrounding herself with the very things that she loves: art, architecture, textiles and light. In paying homage to a family of artists, Reagan Charleston could be considered one of New Orleans' greatest advocates. She was raised to be a craftsman. Hard work and creativity were the hands she was dealt, and with them she is carving a name and reputation for herself.
While most little girls were jumping rope and playing hop scotch, Reagan was dividing visits between her grandparents' French Quarter gallery (The Coghlan Gallery), their Mandeville studio and her aunt and uncle's antique shop in Covington. Though she was fascinated by the process of metal crafting, and would sit alongside her mother as she smoothed the copper that would become the coveted sculptures created by her grandparents, for Reagan, the greater lesson came, not in craftsmanship, but in business. It was work. It was a business, and it was during the hundreds of hours spent crossing the causeway, that she pondered, not art, but career. She decided it would be law. She graduated from Mandeville High School and enrolled in Louisiana State University. "I had a very rigid idea of what I wanted to do. It would be undergrad studies at LSU, law school and practice." She never questioned her plan and never paid mind to the natural pulls of the universe brewing inside and beginning to surface in subtleties.
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Cynthia Zordich is an NFL Player Engagement contributing author. She is the wife of former NFL Player/Coach Michael Zordich and the mother of current Carolina Panther Rookie Michael Zordich, recent New York State University (at Buffalo) graduate Alex Zordich and Penn State Junior Aidan Zordich.