From Ghana strife to US life, family’s journey helped prepare Packers S Peprah

By Chris Jenkins, AP
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Family’s journey helped prepare Packers S Peprah

GREEN BAY, Wis. — He has started only one game since entering the league in 2006, so Charlie Peprah is something of a mystery man to Green Bay Packers fans and certainly to opponents.

With Peprah in the mix to start Sunday’s game at Washington because of injuries at safety, the story of how he got here is even more intriguing.

Peprah’s grandfather, I.K. Acheampong, rose to power as the head of state in the West African nation of Ghana in 1972. He was removed from office in a coup, then executed in 1979. The family fled to Europe, then the U.S., where Peprah was born and raised in Texas.

Peprah said his mother’s life helps him keep everyday difficulties in perspective.

“Just seeing how she handled herself, raising three kids after my parents got divorced, working two jobs, having her father executed, having to get up and leave (Ghana), all that — such a strong woman,” Peprah said. “I think that got passed down to us. Like these little problems we deal with in day-to-day life, ‘Oh, I lost my cell phone or my computer crashed,’ even getting your car stolen, that’s all little.”

Peprah says his family’s story is real to him, even though he was born after the most traumatic part of it.

“You know, I didn’t get to meet my grandfather, so from that aspect, there’s a little bit of a disassociation of emotional ties,” Peprah said. “But knowing what my mom went through and the whole journey she took and where we’re at because of all that is very real. It affected how I was raised, why I was brought up the way I was and where I was, so it’s something we talk about all the time.”

Peprah’s family fled to Germany, then England, and eventually settled in Texas.

He played high school football in Texas, then college football at Alabama, and was taken by the New York Giants in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. He was released and picked up by the Packers, where he played mostly on special teams and started one game in 2008.

Peprah hurt his knee in training camp last year, reached an injury settlement with the Packers and signed with Atlanta in November. This year, he returned to the Packers and could start against Washington after rookie safety Morgan Burnett tore an ACL — if he’s healthy, that is.

He has missed the past two games with a quadriceps injury, but knows he’ll be needed Sunday and expects to play.

Peprah’s coaches praise his intelligence and understanding of the team’s defensive scheme. But when it comes to his family background, they don’t really know much about him.

“I didn’t know that,” secondary/safeties coach Darren Perry said. “That’s interesting.”

Peprah took a trip to Ghana to visit his father in February 2008 and said it immediately felt like home.

“It was a lot of fun,” Peprah said. “It’s crazy. I wasn’t born there, I was first-generation, but when I step off the plane there’s a sense of feeling like I’m home. It’s kind of cool. But I loved it.”

Ghana is more stable today than it was in the 1970s. But when Peprah sees news reports or movies about unrest in African countries, it touches a nerve.

“Any time you hear something like that, genocide or fighting or military taking over the government, overthrows, social unrest, it all hits home,” Peprah said. “I can relate to it somewhat as far as what it can cause. But it definitely makes you appreciate life.”

And when Ghana’s national soccer team played — and beat— the U.S. in the World Cup in June, Peprah definitely took sides.

“Oh, I had my jersey on,” Peprah said. “I was rooting for the Black Stars all the way.”

Barring an injury setback, Peprah will be suited up in his Packers jersey on Sunday. And he hopes to prove something to fans who don’t know much about him.

“It’ll be a great opportunity to show what I can do and let people know I can play,” Peprah said. “I’m excited about that. I think people will be pleasantly surprised.”

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