If you ran into Charles Tauckus in the dining hall or in the Quad, you might not realize that he is currently the leading tackler on sprint football, or that already he has already been turning heads across the Collegiate Sprint Football League in just his freshman season.
“Surprisingly, he’s relatively quiet,” sprint football defensive coordinator Chuck Hitschler said. “If you met him on the outside, you would think that he was gentle, but he is not really gentle.”
“When he hits you, you stay hit," he added.
Tauckus, a freshman linebacker on Penn sprint football, played high school football at Cold Spring Harbor High School in New York. With 38 total tackles, an interception, and two sacks through five games this year, he has quickly emerged as a crucial member of sprint football’s defense. His 38 total tackles rank first on the team and second in the entire CSFL.
“Once we started practicing, it was pretty obvious that we had a really good player, and he was going to be a star player for the next four years," Hitschler said.
Fellow linebacker sophomore Jake Inserra already finds Tauckus an incredibly reliable freshman.
"You know you can trust him when you are out there on the field," Inserra said. "You know he has your back at all times. You don’t have to worry about him, whether he’s doing his job or not.”
Inserra quickly noticed Tauckus’ commitment to developing his craft. Whether it was in the gym, at practice, or watching film, “the first thing I definitely noticed about him was how hard of a worker he was," Inserra said.
Both Hitschler and Inserra also recognized Tauckus’ intelligence and focus off the field. When faced with the difficult task of learning seven different defenses for the upcoming game, by the second day of practice, “he already has them all understood. He knows what he is doing,” Hitschler said.
Tauckus is an adaptive player also. Even in multiple positions — including inside and outside linebacker, special teams, and defensive line — his strength is his consistency across the field. His versatility was showcased in his week two performance against Saint Thomas Aquinas, for which he won CSFL Rookie of the Week. Tauckus had 13 total tackles and an interception. Yet, despite the stand-out performance, Tauckus left the field disappointed from the loss.
“It was definitely a cool honor," he said, "but I felt like it wasn't as special because we didn’t win the game. I felt like I could have done more to help the team win than just getting a single player award.”
Tauckus credits much of his early-career success at Penn to his teammates and coaches. Since arriving on campus, Tauckus has felt that the upperclassmen have been welcoming and made him feel a part of the team.
“It's definitely been great to have a brotherhood right when I come to a new place where I don't really know anyone,” he said.
But before Tauckus earned CSFL Rookie of the Week, he began his football career during his junior year of high school, where he already possessed an immense drive to be great on the field.
“I don't think anybody embraced the process more than Charles," Tauckus' high school coach and teacher Jon Mendreski said. "The weight room, the skill-development film. He embraced the grind.”
Mendreski noticed Tauckus’ quiet demeanor yet grand impact on the field, which led to Tauckus earning All-State his senior year as both a running back and a linebacker.
“He did all his talking with his actions and with his play," Mendreski said. "And he didn't have to say much because what he did on the field spoke volumes on and off the field.”
After Tauckus missed a season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he realized how much he loved the game of football and decided that he wanted to keep playing after high school.
When he learned about sprint football at Penn, he was immediately interested.
"It was a great opportunity to keep doing what I love and also be at a great university,” Tauckus said.
Tauckus was surrounded by exemplary stories of Ivy League student-athletes within his family. His father, Michael Tauckus, played lacrosse at Harvard, and his sister, Grace Tauckus, plays lacrosse at Princeton.
“She's one of the hardest working people I know,” Tauckus said about his sister Grace.
Grace, who is two years older than Charles, committed to play at Princeton as a sophomore in high school. Tauckus, who was in 8th grade at the time, saw his sister commit early and learned “that hard work can translate into great opportunities.”
“She pushes me to be better," Tauckus said. "And I am really grateful for her and being able to go see her games. Also, it inspires me to be better, myself.”
Mendreski saw all the Tauckus children go through high school and already knew what to expect when he learned another one was coming to Cold Spring Harbor.
“The whole family as a whole is a great family. His older sisters were very well-liked students,” Mendreski said. “Once we saw a Tauckus name when he came in, we figured he’d be a good kid as the other ones were. We were absolutely right.”
At Penn, Tauckus had the chance to step outside the shadow of his older siblings, and he has taken the challenge with poise. With several years ahead, he has his eyes set on bringing another sprint football championship to Penn, but for now, he is focused on winning one game at a time.
“He’s got the right mental approach to playing defense," Hitschler said. "He brings that intensity to practice. He brings it to his study of film, and he brings it to games.”
He added, “If you could get us a few more Charleses, we would love it.”