Frisco -- As he heads into third professional season Cowboys defensive end Charles Tapper has yet to make the kind of impact he'd like, but that hasn't stopped him from keeping a positive outlook.
And he's received some help in that endeavor from an unlikely source, the Frisco High School chapter of the Best Buddies program. Tapper attended a pep rally in late February at the school to hand-deliver a check for nearly $4,000 to benefit the Best Buddies at Frisco high and around the state.
"This really motivates me," said Tapper, "and makes me strive for more greatness."
Founded in 1989, Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Melanie Newberry, a teacher at Frisco and sponsor of the school's Best Buddies program said Tapper showed great compassion for the students, "he visited with them, joked with them, and gave them lots of high-fives and love."
Tapper is in the midst of an important offseason. He missed all of his rookie season after discovering a pars defect in his back and was sidelined with a broken foot for the final 12 games of 2017.
The 2016 fourth-round pick has played just two games with one sack in his first two pro seasons.
Tapper says the time spent with the Buddies provided inspiration, "It's that will," he said. " It shows you that anything is possible.
"When you see somebody who really doesn't have that opportunity, and they say they look up to you, that's super motivation right there."
That's not the only source of motivation Tapper will bring into his third season, though. His mother Rhonda passed away in January. He's dedicated this season to her memory.
It's especially meaningful because while he was focused on basketball at Baltimore City College, his mom pushed Tapper to play football. That led to a four-year career at Oklahoma, and the realization his NFL dream.
Now that it's time to produce, his mother's memory and teachings will help guide him.
This season figures to present tough challenges, and he's coming off the toughest of circumstance after losing a loved one.
But through it all, Tapper vows to keep the right perspective, "I'm keeping it positive, man."
Mom would be proud.