Current Grace Prep football players, Junior Matthew Tucker and Senior Angel Garza-Nava interview GPA Alumn, Charlie Flores about playing football in the Ivy League. All three young men all played for Coach Chad Pegues here.

A lion’s legacy from TAPPS to Ivy: Perseverance leads to strength

Here for his brother John Paul’s basketball tournament (a senior at All Saints), Charlie Flores, offensive lineman for the Columbia lions stopped by and recalled attending school here from 3rd-10th grade. He also talked to us about Columbia’s record turn-around in football success this season.

Charlie Flores, a former Grace Prep student, is heading into his final year to play football for Columbia University.

The University is an Ivy League icon founded in 1754. It is located on the Upper West side of Manhattan in the heart of New York City. It is known for their engineering, medical and performing arts programs, but it is not well known for its’ success in football…until now.

This past decade, from 2001 to 2011 they had only 28 wins out of all 88 games played.

Flores was fully aware of this when choosing to play for the Columbia University Lions in 2014. He had plenty of teams to choose from (UT, Texas State, and more, as a high-ranked recruit from here. He played high school football for Grace Prep Head Coach Chad Pegues, and had experienced the taste of loss with our lions as well as the taste of victory.

“Charlie always played 100% from Junior High on, and told me he wanted to play in college, so that’s what I prepared him for,” said GPA Football Coach Chad Pegues.”He is a great guy, he always worked hard!”

Flores remembers Coach Pegues fondly.

“Coach P. pushed us hard to prepare us because he cared, and I miss him,” said Flores.

Despite efforts, Flores’s team here did not make it to state, but that didn’t discourage Flores for long, and neither did Columbia’s poor record.

“The first year, we [Columbia] went 0 and 10, which was hard that first winter, but we bonded over that, and it helped build those relationships [among our team],” said Flores, offensive lineman.

Perseverance is in the DNA of this lion, as Flores joked “once a lion, always a lion,” because during his 3 years playing for the Columbia Lions (he was red-shirted his first year due to an injury) Flores started 23 of 29 career games played on the offensive line.

This year, his senior year, the lions finished with an 8-2 record, and were only one game away from winning the Ivy League Championship.

According to a Columbia team publicist who knows Charlie well, Charlie was a unifying element on his team, and that camaraderie helped the team turn their record losses into wins. Flores credits everyone but himself.

“I think we had a really great strength staff, Coach [Al] Bagnoli and everybody there helped prepare us mentally, and we had a really good group of seniors. We had 34 guys enter the program, and about 31 have stayed with us the 4 years. Our bonding helped us become successful this year,” said Flores.

Columbia Lions are now ranked second in the Ivy League, winning their last game over Flores’s brother Jacob Fores’s alma mater, Dartmouth in an overtime-nail-biter.

A Columbia spokesperson we talked to said he remembered the Flores family wearing house divided t-shirts with both teams displayed back when watching Charlie at the 2013 Dartmouth/Columbia game.

Left to right, Charlie, Lysette, and Jacob Flores all attended GPA, and now all attend or have graduated from Ivy League schools, both brothers playing collegiate football. Jacob also played for The Green Bay Packers.

Charlie’s older siblings Lysette Flores and Jacob Flores graduated from here in 2011 and 2012. All three attend or have attended Ivy League schools, with Charlie graduating with a theology degree after next football season, and Lysette working on her Master’s in Theology at Harvard, and Jacob earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Religion at Dartmouth.

Charlie faced a tough situation a few weeks ago, when he was injured in his  game against Harvard with a torn MCL, which is no small injury. Yet, Charlie insisted on playing his last game two weeks later anyway.

“I completely tore my MCL in the first half of the Harvard game,” said Charlie. “The one thing on my mind was to be able to play with the teammates I had come to Columbia with. I tried to rehab my knee enough to be able to play in the last game of the year two weeks after the Harvard game.”

He did play.

He started.

He started 9 out of 10 games this season as Left Guard.

Truly, the lions’ time in the valley, their years of loss, built the team together and unified the school. Columbia coaches, players and fans persevered throughout the ugly; and clearly, their perseverance paid off.

Our GPA losing streak has fallen upon us, our team coming off of the high of the 2016 football state finals championship, to find their 4-8 2017 season record quite disappointing.

Nevertheless, lions must choose, just like those at Columbia did, to set their eyes upon the future and believe in the good that will come. Good things will come, to those who persevere.

For more on this story, including an on-camera interview with Charlie, check back with soon.

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