Castille Character Camp in Decatur, AL June 20-21

By Justin Graves Sports Writer, Decatur Daily

June 21, 2014

Young at Heart

Jeremiah Castille believes he fits the label.

The former Alabama football star at least looks, and acts, the part.

These days, Castille’s hair has faded a light shade of grey. There are a few extra wrinkles and lines around the eyes. But any real signs of aging?

“Being out here around all these young people keeps me young,” Castille said with a wide smile. “I’ve found something that makes me happy, and man oh man, doing something that makes you happy and keeps you going.”

During the weekend, Castille, who starred for Alabama in the early 1980s, and then played six seasons for the Denver Broncos from 1983-1988, was in that happy place — clearly in his element.

The venues: A church. A football practice field. Then a fellowship steak and chicken dinner with friends, both new and old, before hitting the sack for a few hours of sleep.

Castille was in Decatur this weekend, hosting a football skills and character camp. The two-day event concluded Saturday. Student-athletes attended the camp free of charge. Camp coaches were compensated through sponsors with help from Central Park Baptist Church.

Castille now is on his seventh year of hosting football skills and character camps, but until this summer, the others were held in Cullman. This June, the camp was expanded to three sites — Cullman, Decatur and Cedartown, Ga..

“You never know how a kid will respond to messages we have,” Castille said. “We’ve had a lot of success with this. It’s been a lot of fun for me, but getting an opportunity to see young people respond to the messages our coaches have, and do something positive with their lives, that’s what this is all about.”

Now that Castille’s playing days are finished, and his children are out of the house and finished with college, the former Crimson Tide star has been committed to mission work — spending his time passing down religious faith-driven messages and working for charitable causes.

Castille serves as a chaplain for Alabama’s football program, where his sons Tim and Simeon also played. He also oversees his charitable organization, the Castille Foundation.

And now, for a few weekends during the summer, he plays the role as football skills coach with plenty of life lessons, and advice, to go around.

During the two-day event, young football players from across the area received instruction on how to properly do NFL combine drills, and former Auburn track star, and U.S. Olympian Willie Smith, helped provide speed and agility training.

“There’s a lot of good knowledge being handed down,” Castille said.

But at this camp, football was just one of the themes. Building off-the-field character skills, with plenty of life lessons from the camp instructors, was in the limelight.

While meeting with his newest group of camp coaches Friday afternoon, Castille made his priorities clear, addressing the group like a fiery lead the determined to impact someone attending the camp.

“You never know how a message will impact someone,” Castille said with authority, while addressing the group of coaches, consisting mostly of former college players. “The message you have, and how you present yourself, might be the most impactful thing of their lives. You never know. If you aren’t wholeheartedly committed to this, then this might not be for you.”

Camp coach Justin Brown, a former Athens High and Miles College standout wide receiver, heard Castille’s message loud and clear.

“We’re here to motivate young people, physically and spiritually,” Brown said. “This is going to be fun, great thing, for both the kids and us coaches.”

Paying it forward. For Castille, the concept has become an important aspect of his life.

According to Castille, former Alabama football coach Paul Bryant had a positive impact on his life — both on and away from the field.

“And that’s the main reason I do this,” Castille said. “Coach Bryant helped me become the person I am today. He believed in me. He helped me. And now I want to do the same for others.”

Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at jgraves@decaturdaily.com.