Former Central football star Jeremiah Castille shared an impassioned message to a select gathering of Central High students on Wednesday in the school’s auditorium.
He was there to present the school with a gold football from the NFL to mark the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl. Castille played for the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII and was asked, along with all other Super Bowl participants, to present the token to the school they began their careers at.
Castille wanted to present the students with much more, however.
“I wanted to come back,” he said. “I owe so much to Central High School and all the teachers that were here, and I wanted to encourage the students who are now.”
Currently, Castille works as a team chaplain for the Alabama football team, a position he’s held since 2001. In a booming voice that echoed the preachers one might hear on a Sunday in the South, Castille shared some of the difficulties he had to overcome in his youth to be able to have the success he did. That success included 16 career interceptions at Alabama, a national championship in 1979, a Super Bowl appearance in 1988, and much more.
He grew up in a home marred by alcoholism and substance abuse, he said, and it was on him to make it to school every day.
“You know how I got to school everyday?” he asked the room. “I ran. I ran two-a-days in football, and I ran to and from school. Why? Because that’s how big my dream was.”
He shared how relationships — his friends, coaches and teachers — were the most important foundations of his success. He relied on people like former Red Devils coach Wayne Trawick and former Alabama coach, the late Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Among his closest friends was Eddie Lowe, current mayor of Phenix City and brother of former Central coach Woodrow Lowe.
“He was a walk-on at Alabama for four years and he was voted team captain as a senior,” Castille said. “And I roomed with him for four years.”
He encouraged the students to be proud and to utilize the resources they had in front of them at Central.
“You don’t get to play in a Super Bowl if you aren’t disciplined,” he said. “You can’t win a championship if you’re not disciplined. … What football represents to me is all the things you have to do to be in a position to make a play like I did in the 1988 AFC Championship game.”
He was referring to a strip he made of Cleveland Browns running back Earnest Byner with 1:12 remaining in the game. Castille stripped the ball at the 1-yard line to preserve a 38-33 win in a play immortalized as “The Fumble.”
“It started here — the resource of high school, what you learn in high school,” Castille said. “If you’ll take these things, further down the road success will come from it.”