Where It All Began For Juan Castillo

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Should you ever go to the Under Armour Performance Center at 4 a.m., it is certain you will see at least one light on.

That light turns on when Offensive Line Coach Juan Castillo gets to the office every morning.

Castillo doesn't know what it's like not to get to work before sunrise.

From an early age, Castillo learned what having a strong work ethic entails. It began when his dad, a shrimper, would wake him up at 3:30 a.m. to go to the fish house. Castillo didn't have much of a choice in the matter, and he didn't try to avoid the early morning assignment.

"You don't really ask, you just do," he said.

Castillo doesn't just carry this attitude on the football field; it has become his motto in all aspects of his life.

Both of his parents came to the United States from Mexico at the ages of 13 and 14 and went straight to work.

While most kids enter the sixth grade with teenage excitement, Castillo realized that he would need to become an adult quicker than most one morning in the summer of 1970.

Castillo's dad went to work and did not come home that night.  He fell off the shrimp boat, and drowned. With two younger sisters to take care of, Castillo became the man of the house at age 11.

Castillo's mother became the sole financial provider for the family. She worked two jobs, one as a maid and the other clearing dishes at a restaurant. 

Castillo credits his mother for two important values: his work ethic and teaching him the importance of treating people with respect.

"She was always really nice to everybody," he said.

Growing up in the small town of Port Isabel, Texas, kids start playing football in the streets from a young age. This is where Castillo was introduced to the game of football; the game that changed his life.

Castillo attended Port Isabel High School where he played on the football team as a linebacker and tight end. He wasn't the fastest, strongest, or most talented, but he developed a work ethic that pushed him to become the first person in his family to ever graduate high school.

Castillo knew he wanted to play college football, but the only school that offered him a scholarship was Monterrey Tech in Monterrey, Mexico. Although not ideal, he saw it as an opportunity.

He became a starting linebacker, but after his freshman year, the school ended its football program. Castillo's career at Monterrey Tech was over, but he was not ready to hang up the cleats just yet.

When he returned to Port Isabel, he reached out to his high school football coach, a former player at Texas A&M- Kingsville, named Fred Jonas, the head coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville. Jonas agreed to give Castillo a tryout.

In the spring of 1978, Castillo walked on to the football team, and earned a scholarship after just one semester. After morning offseason workouts, Castillo would get in his second workout for the day by running stadium stairs and extra sprints. The next season, he was a starting linebacker, and helped carry his team to a NCAA Division II National Championship.

"I knew that if I was in better shape than my competitors, then I could go the same speed longer than they could," Castillo said.

Castillo played three years at Texas A&M-Kingsville and was All-Conference his senior season, but it wasn't enough to get drafted. Castillo graduated with a degree in Kinesiology, and was offered a job to coach at the local high school in Kingsville, Texas. Castillo was the defensive coordinator for four years.

From Defense To Offense

With a desire to get back into the college game, Castillo would go visit former coaches and study their techniques. He then accepted a full-time position at Texas A&M- Kingsville as the offensive line coach, even though he had a defensive background.

Castillo coached one season as the offensive line coach before the defensive back coach position opened up. Being a defensive guy, he thought it would be a perfect fit for him. He interviewed for the job, but didn't get hired.

Shocked and confused that he didn't get the job, Castillo asked why he wasn't chosen. He found out it was because of one thing: a difference in the technique of back pedaling.

"Instead of complaining about not getting the job, I said, I have to go learn what that technique is all about.'"

And that is exactly what he would do. Castillo found out that Mickey Andrews of Florida State was teaching this technique. Castillo got in his car and drove from Texas to Florida. While learning from Andrews, he slept in his car. The technique wasn't the most important thing he learned on his journey. Castillo learned the value in of not settling when things don't go your way.

"If you don't know something, go learn it." 

This phrase epitomizes Castillo's journey to becoming an NFL coach. He was willing to go anywhere to learn.

Castillo called Tony Wise, the offensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Wise let Castillo attend the Cowboys training camp. He called the head coach of the University of Colorado, Mike Berry, and drove to Colorado to watch practice for a couple days. He flew to Buffalo to attend the Bills training camp, and while he was there, he met Marv Levy, the longtime head coach of the Buffalo Bills.

Levy introduced Castillo to the NFL's minority internship program. Due to Castillo's Hispanic heritage, he qualified and was able to stay in Buffalo for a month as an intern with Offensive Line Coach Tom Breshanan.

Following his first season as the offensive line coach at Texas A&M- Kingsville, he decided to take another road trip. He visited the University of Notre Dame where he would park and sleep outside of the football facilities. He would use the student recreation center to shower each morning before meeting with the coaches all day.

Castillo went to the west coast, where he met Ray Rhodes, the defensive backs coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

"Whatever they said was gold," Castillo said. "I would just go home and write everything down and say what I am going to do."

Little did Castillo know that while taking notes and asking questions, he was leaving an impression amongst all of these coaches.

"This is a man of great integrity and determination to get things done correctly. The guy is really something special," Breshanan said.

After five years at Texas A&M-Kingsville, Castillo was offered his first NFL job.

Castillo was hired as the offensive quality control coach by Rhodes, who left San Francisco to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. His primary job was to help the offensive coordinator with anything he needed.

The offensive coordinator for the Eagles at that time was Jon Gruden. Gruden quickly shared his expectations as he told Castillo, "Juan, when I did your job, I was always here at 4 in the morning."

Castillo averaged about three hours of sleep a night for two years as the offensive quality control coach. He was offered the job to become the tight ends coach in his third season. In his fourth season, he returned to his position group as the offensive line coach.

After one season as the Eagles' offensive line coach, the coaching staff was fired following a disappointing season. Castillo needed to find a new job quickly.

While returning to Philadelphia to turn in his keys, he ran into the newly hired head coach of the Eagles, Andy Reid.

Reid informed Castillo that after watching tape of the previous season, he was the front runner to stay as the offensive line coach in Philadelphia. Castillo was re-hired and went on to coach for the next 12 years.

In 2011, the Eagles made a change and moved Castillo to defensive coordinator. His run as a defensive coordinator was brief, and after a tough season in 2012, Castillo was fired.

Castillo wasn't out of a job long, however, as John Harbaugh, who worked with Castillo from 1997 to 2007 in Philadelphia, hired him to become the Baltimore Ravens offensive line coach in 2013.

The offensive line struggled in Castillo's first year in Baltimore, but Castillo worked tirelessly to turn things around. He made sure that no matter what happened, no one could question the work ethic of his unit.

"Nobody will outwork the offensive line, and no one will outwork the offensive line coach, that is a given," Castillo said.

The hard work paid off as the Ravens offensive line made major improvements during the 2014 season. Joe Flacco was sacked the fewest times in his career (19), a significant drop from the 46 times he was sacked in 2013. The offensive line also helped running back Justin Forsett run for over 1,200 yards, as he was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

"I would say Juan is maybe the finest teacher of football in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "He teaches the game as well as anybody you're ever going to see, and those guys – they like to work for him."

It doesn't take long to see the impact Castillo has on his players.

"Juan Castillo is a very good coach. I am so blessed to be here and be working under him," rookie offensive lineman Robert Myers said. "He knows your weakness and your strength. He does his techniques and fundamentals around what you are good at. And then he fixes your negatives, and makes you a good player.

What does Juan Castillo want to be known for when it's all said and done?

"I want to develop players. Not just teach them the game, but more importantly, teach them the importance of work ethic."

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