Brent Civitan President Rick Edmonds invited a special guest to speak to the club at last weeks meeting and a large crowd gathered to hear former Alabama football star Jeremiah Castille reminisce about his years playing at the University for Coach Paul W. Bryant.
Jeremiah Castille played collegiately at the University of Alabama where he was named a Kodak All-American in 1982. He was named All-SEC for two consecutive years (1981-82). In Coach Bryant’s final game, the 1982 Liberty Bowl, Castille was named MVP. He was selected as a member of Alabama’s All-Century Defensive Team. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1983 where he played five seasons, until he was traded to the Denver Broncos where he would play two seasons. NFL Films awarded him the Defensive Play of the Year in the AFC Championship Game. He played in Super Bowls XXI and XXII. He is a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2005.
On Thursday, July 29, Castille spoke to the Brent Civitan Club about his memories and experiences with legendary Coach Paul W. Bryant after Bryant recruited him to play for the University of Alabama in 1979. He spoke for more than an hour and his stories kept the audience’s undivided and riveted attention as he took them on a personal journey through the early years of his football life.
Castille said that he was #8 of a 9 kid family in which none of his siblings had graduated from high school. Entering the UA in 1979 and joining the football team following a 1978 national championship year there were high expectations and Bryant worked the team 4 solid weeks of two a day practices, in full pads with live scrimmages.
Castille talked at length about his relationship with Coach Bryant and both his fear and respect for the man. You have to hear Castille himself tell the story to appreciate fully the depth of the relationship and of course it helps the flavor sink in if you yourself have been mentored in your lifetime by a tough coach.
What Castille emphasized about his recollection of Bryant was his ability and willingness to invest in people. Castille told the story of being summoned to Bryant’s office, slumping down into the infamous low sofa across from Bryant’s towering desk, near the beginning of the 1979 season. After some conversation he said that Bryant made him feel that he genuinely cared about him and his future and he told him “Son, you can play for the University of Alabama, and you can play this year.” Castille says he walked in to that office as a 5 ft 9 freshman and walked out at least 6 ft 2. It was his personal “defining moment” in life says Castille. He could play for the University of Alabama and he has never forgotten those words coming from Coach Bryant.
Castille has moved on from football to a lifetime of success but says he is eternally in debt to the University of Alabama. He has served for the past 20 years as a Chaplain to the UA football program. He says that the movement that Bryant started when he opened the door to black athletes at the UA must never be diminished or marginalized.
Bryant was much more than a football coach. After he recruited John Mitchell and Wilbur Jackson in 1971 to break the color barrier at UA Coach Bryant opened the door to hundreds of black athletes whose after football lives have been affected by his legacy long after Bryant’s death. Castille said that sports has been the greatest tool in our country for the improvement of race relations and the work of the Bryant family and those that have followed should not go unrecognized.
The Castille Foundation has plans to commemorate the significant long lasting achievements of the Bryant family later this year with an event that will be held in Birmingham. Details are formulating now and will be announced at a later date. You can watch the foundation website for more information.
Centreville Mayor Mike Oakley was present for the Castille presentation and said ” I think everybody enjoyed when he [Castille] talked about the lessons that bear Bryant imparted to players. Most of all he said that regardless of color or background, Coach Bryant loved them but they were all scared of him! Castille said Bryant was the best motivator he ever knew and impacted his life beyond football.”
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