Tragic ties aside, Ghana embraces Pack's Peprah
IRVING, Texas (AP)
Charlie Peprah doesn't quite have the same story as the other guys at the Super Bowl.
Sure, his dad is flying in for Sunday's game. But he's coming all the way from Ghana. And Peprah's grandfather? He used to be head of state in the West African nation - until he was executed after a coup.
Peprah will always be associated with that tumultuous chapter in Ghana's history, but he's giving the people of his family's home nation another reason to know his name: He will be a starting safety for the Packers when Green Bay takes on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium.
''My dad said it's getting crazy over there, they're following the Super Bowl,'' Peprah said. ''You know how the Super Bowl goes, it's watched worldwide.''
Peprah recalled a trip Ghana a few years ago. Some people knew who he was then, but for much different reasons. Peprah's grandfather, I.K. Acheampong, rose to power as the head of state in Ghana in 1972. He was removed from office in a coup, then executed in 1979.
''A coup overthrew the government and removed him from office, gathered up him and some of his generals and executed them,'' Peprah said.
Peprah talks about the episode in a matter-of-fact manner. He wasn't born until his family came to the U.S., and he only has heard about the events from his parents and other family members.
''He tried to take on that role to help the country,'' Peprah said. ''He was such a strong person that he could take that role. I take pride in that and I feel like I have some of the same qualities. It all runs in the family.''
His mother still has a few photos of his grandfather, but that's about as close as it gets.
''I'm a little disconnected, because I never got to meet him,'' Peprah said. ''It's kind of just something I grew up knowing was part of my family history.''
The family fled to Europe, then the U.S., settling in Texas. Peprah's father studied at TCU, where he came to appreciate sports beyond soccer.
''My dad got into football when he was at TCU,'' Peprah said. ''I think he went to a TCU-Arkansas game and I think that's when he first kind of started learning about football. He's liked it since then.''
Peprah's parents got divorced when he was in grade school, and his father moved back to Ghana a few years later. Peprah's father works for the government, supervising communications licensing, and Peprah remains close with his dad.
''He was a good father, regardless of what happened to he and my mom,'' Peprah said. ''Our relationship was still cool. He was around long enough to instill values and be a father figure in my life.''
And Peprah is thrilled that his father will be able to watch him in the Super Bowl.
''It's going to mean a lot,'' Peprah said. ''Growing up, he took me to practice and watched my games without knowing that this would be the outcome. This is special.''
Peprah played high school football in Texas, then college football at Alabama, and was selected by the New York Giants in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. He is in his second stint with the Packers, and took over as a starter after a season-ending knee injury to rookie Morgan Burnett.
''If my opportunity came, I wanted to take advantage of it,'' Peprah said. ''I just wanted to always stay prepared and just go in and play football, stay confident in my abilities and whenever they called on me, just be productive. ''
Fellow Packers safety Atari Bigby said Peprah showed he can play.
''Charlie's always been a good player,'' Bigby said. ''I always used to tell him he's a great player. He's not doing anything that's surprising to me. I always knew he had it in him.''
Peprah said he still finds it a little hard to believe he'll be playing in the Super Bowl.
''You always had to have the confidence that eventually one day you'll be a starter and you want to play in the Super Bowl,'' Peprah said. ''You don't know when or if that's going to happen, but you always stay thinking it'll happen one day. I couldn't have told you it would happen like this.''