Charlie Peprah's road leads home

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Charlie Peprah came into a jubilant locker room in pain. But it was a good pain.

The Green Bay Packers' starting strong safety needed help taking off his shoulder pads, but he didn't mind. Peprah noted he barely had feeling in his hands.

He told a small group of reporters that he might have to stop talking because he felt he might cramp up.

It was OK, though, because Peprah is living the dream of playing in a Super Bowl in his hometown.

After the Packers held off the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, Peprah and his teammates were smiling.

But he also was reflective.

"It's a long journey, a long road," Peprah said. "God is great. Man, it just makes everything that much sweeter."

He was reminded of his mom, Elizabeth Peprah, who fled Ghana with her husband and a young child in tow after her father, Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, who was the head of state of Ghana, was executed in 1979 following a coup.

They eventually wound up in the Dallas area, and Charlie Peprah was born in Fort Worth.

Peprah's parents divorced, leaving Elizabeth to raise the kids alone. So when you saw Peprah smiling inside the Packers' locker room Sunday night, you knew why he's happy.

He's come through it.

He played high school football at Plano East in suburban Dallas, got a college scholarship to play at Alabama, then was a fifth-round draft choice of the New York Giants in 2006. But he was cut in training camp and signed on with the Packers.

He was mainly a special teams player and couldn't get any run at safety on a regular basis. Then he signed an injury settlement in 2009 and went looking for work until the Atlanta Falcons signed him toward the end of the season.

He was released after that season and returned to the Packers this season, signing a one-year deal, hopeful he would get more playing time.

But the Packers drafted Morgan Burnett to play safety, keeping Peprah on the bench. Peprah struggled with a left quad injury, but when Burnett was lost for the season with a knee injury, the team had no choice but to use Peprah.

"Charles has been a pro all season long," secondary coach Darren Perry said. "The way he prepares and the way he takes care of business day in and day out [is important]. There's no surprise to me that he's having the success that he's had all season long."

As the season progressed, Peprah got better and started 11 regular-season games. He capped it off with a game-high 10 tackles in Super Bowl XLV.

It wasn't the best game in the world for Peprah, but he did enough along with Nick Collins to keep the secondary in shape, especially on the last drive of the game and with Charles Woodson out with a broken left collarbone.

So excuse Peprah for going down memory lane when it comes to his feelings about the Super Bowl. Of the 15 tickets he got for the game, one was for his father, who came in from West Africa to watch his son play.

"Everything I've been through, getting cut twice, and to end up starting the Super Bowl and hopefully I can go get another one," he said. "It's just special."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.