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Packers safety Charlie Peprah has a country rooting him on

IRVING -- Charlie Peprah has never lived in Ghana and has barely visited there, but the West African country still considers him one of their own. In fact, Peprah, who is Ghanaian by birth, has become something of a hero to the 23 million people there.

"If I go back, they wouldn't be able to pick me out," the Green Bay Packers starting strong safety said. "But my dad said it's getting crazy over there. They're following the Super Bowl. You know how the Super Bowl goes. It's watched worldwide. I think I'm the first Ghanaian to be in the Super Bowl, and they're trying to make a big deal out of it.

"The name is definitely out there a little bit."

Peprah's maternal grandfather, General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, was head of state in Ghana from 1972 -- when he took over in a bloodless coup -- to 1978 when he was deposed in a palace coup. Acheampong was executed by a firing squad in 1979.

Peprah knows his grandfather through his parents' stories, family photos, his grandfather's books and the Internet.

"I feel a little disconnected," Peprah said, "because I never got to meet him. It's just something I grew up with, knowing it's in my family history."

Peprah's parents, Josh and Elizabeth, left the country two weeks after Acheampong's ouster with things in chaos and fearful of the future.

"The rebels were after everybody," said Elizabeth, who lives in McKinney. "We felt it wasn't safe, so we decided to leave and start a new life somewhere else."

That somewhere else was Germany and then England. They finally settled in Fort Worth, where Josh earned an engineering degree from TCU. Charlie was born in Fort Worth, though his parents moved the family to Plano when Charlie still was knee-high.

The couple divorced when Charlie was in junior high, and Josh moved back to Ghana three years later and works for the government.

The couple's three sons might have been world-class soccer players had they grown up in Ghana. Instead, they became American football players.

Oldest son Richard played at Wyoming, and youngest son Josh just finished his redshirt freshman season at Wisconsin. (The eldest Josh rooted for Wisconsin -- and his son -- in the Rose Bowl.)

Charlie was a fifth-round pick of the New York Giants in 2006 after a standout career at Alabama, but he didn't make the roster. He was something of a journeyman, playing mostly special teams and hampered by injuries, until this season when he re-signed with the Packers after a year in Atlanta.

Charlie, who had spent 2006-08 in Green Bay, made 11 starts in place of Morgan Burnett this season with 63 tackles and two interceptions.

"In the preseason, Charlie was about as consistent a player as we had on defense, but he knew it was going to be tough numbers-wise to keep all those guys," Packers defensive backs coach Darren Perry said. "He didn't let that affect how he approached each game. He went out there and said, 'Hey, I'm going to let the chips fall where they may.' Sometimes you get your breaks through the misfortune of someone else, and he's taken advantage of his opportunity."

Peprah has come a long way to get here, back in his hometown for Super Bowl XLV with a whole country rooting him on.

"When God closes one door, he opens another," Elizabeth said. "Everything happens for a reason."

Charean Williams,

817-390-7760

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