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Charles officially joins museum’s sports legends

Jamaal Charles may have added another record to his bulging resume Friday afternoon, and he didn’t even have a football under his arm.

    Surrounded by a throng of family, friends and fans at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, Port Arthur’s newest NFL sensation probably established a record for most autographs signed and pictures taken in 30 minutes. And he loved every minute of it.

    “This is a real special day for me,” said the Kansas City Chiefs most valable player, after Port Arthur Historical Society president Dr. Sam Monroe made the official announcent that Charles has been unanimously voted into the Sports Legends Gallery. “Having my family and the people who supported me all these years turn out like this is something I’ll never forget.

    “I’m proud of being from Port Arthur,” he continued. “I always tell everybody where I’m from. To be a part of this museum is something that I’ve wanted from the first time I came in here as a kid and saw that statue of Little Joe Washington. I looked at that and said, ‘Can I get one of those?’ ”

    Charles can’t get one just yet. For now, he’ll have to settle for a display case that will be unveiled at a yet-to-be determined date this spring. But if he continues to run wild, like he did in the second half of the 2009 NFL season, a statue might not be out of the question.

    Monroe, in making the announcement, noted that “Everybody knows who Jamaal Charles is.” He also pointed out that Jamaal topped Little Joe’s Port Arthur schoolboy rushing record and didn’t stop there.

    “Now he’s performing at the highest level,” Monroe said.

    And perfoming very well, as evidenced by a second NFL season that saw him average 5.9 yards per carry while rushing for 1,120 yards on only 190 carries. Counting kickoff returns, including a 97-yarder for a TD against the Steelers, and 40 receptions for 297 yards, his 2,342 combined net yards were second most in Chiefs history.

    In Kansas City, they are still talking about his season-ending explosion against the Denver Broncos, when he rushed for a team record 259 yards and two touchdowns. He was within 39 yards of the all-time NFL one-game record, but turned down a chance to go back into a game that had become a blowout.

    “I’ll get that record another time,” he told a somewhat stunned Chiefs coach Todd Haley. Haley later praised his star running back for having the character to not go after a record in a game that was out of hand.

    Charles, who was first nominated for inclusion into the museum by his Woodrow Wilson Middle School art teacher Terry Thompson, presented Monroe and museum director Shannon Hanson with an autographed No. 25 Kansas City Chiefs jersey, and an autographed photo of him in a Chiefs uniform. There will be much more to come.

    The turnout of people to share the moment with the former Memorial High School All-America pretty well underscored his hometown popularity. Young and old, black and white, they surrounded him, exchanged hugs, hellos and handshakes, and waited patiently to have photos taken with him and objects signed by him.

    One guy even showed up wearing a No. 25 Jamaal Charles University of Texas jersey.

    “I am really feeding off this energy,” he told a reporter. “It is an honor to be a part of this. It’s something I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about, and bring them up and show them. But I’ll also tell them to accomplish something like this, you have to work really, really hard. That’s how I got here.”

    Charles also had a promise for his fans. The best is yet to come.

    “I’m going to keep making Port Arthur proud of me. I’m going to play in the NFL as long as I can. I’m blessed with the talent God gave me and I’m going to make the most of it. I want to keep having 1,000 yard season, make at least a couple of Pro Bowls and help my team get to the playoffs.”