“Yesterday, I couldn’t even talk because I was so excited and because of that I was able to get my jitters out and do what I had to do today,” Castleman said. “I feel great after this.”Castleman was a svelte 299 pounds compared to the 316 he weighed when making tackles and also running the football and catching a key fourth quarter pass to help seal Oklahoma State's 30-22 Cactus Bowl win over Washington.
His height was measured at 6-2 and 1/3 inches. The key numbers for Castleman today included 25 reps on the 225-pound bench press test and a 28-inch vertical jump. He said he noticed the faces of some of the scouts during the agility drills showing some surprise at how nimble the big man was on his feet.
“(Scouts) are excited to see my athletic ability,” Castleman said with a smile. “A lot of people don’t understand that I can do things that people my size (typically) can’t. I like to be the underdog and show them that I can do that.”
Sitting in a wheelchair across the Sherman Smith Training Center while Castleman was meeting with the media was Blake Watson, who came to see Castleman put forth his best in front of the scouts.
Castleman said Watson was part of the reason he was inspired and motivated for the opportunity. Watson is a wounded warrior and works out at the Adaptive Training Foundation, which is run by and adjacent to the performance training facility that Castleman used for his training.
“I’m watching this dude jump rope with one leg. I’m using him as motivation,” Castleman detailed. “After I saw him jump rope with one leg, I knew I could never complain about hurting or being tired or anything.”
Watson feels the same way about training with Castleman.
"It's an awesome story just to get to know James,” Watson said. “He's such an amazing person and his character is out of control. And just to be in there working with that guy, and he's going to be playing in the NFL. Me inspiring him, he's inspiring me to be there and push myself to compete with him."
It’s really the way the two training outlets work. They work together allowing the athletes to inspire the wounded soldiers and the soldiers inspire the athletes. It works.
It needed to work for Watson, who after four years in the United States Marine Corps had rose to Corporal and was in Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion and 5th Marines. He was on dismounted foot patrol when he knelt down on an IED and the resulting explosion took his left leg above the knee, caused serious tissue damage in his right leg, and serious damage to his left elbow.
In December of 2013 he was medically retired from the Marines, but as his workouts and his competitive fire will convey, he did not retire from life.
“To compete with him with everything he's doing, you know maybe I can't do it the same way but I will find a way to do it,” Watson said of working out next to Castleman. “It's fun to just have a competition, you know the wounded guys against the pro athletes, and if a guy comes in like James always complaining about his pinky toe and a guy over here is missing three limbs and is doing bench press then that pinky toe don't hurt so much anymore.”
Today was important to Castleman as he wants to make it to the NFL, but everyday is vitally important to Watson. He didn’t detail all that happened on that fateful day while on foot patrol in Afghanistan but he did cite a group of people he owes a debt to.
"Indian Company, 3rd Platoon, 3rd Squad, the corpsman and all my guys over there I owe it all to them,” Watson said with absolute enthusiasm. “I spend every day when I wake up, I need to find what I'm doing, and I use every bit of motivation to pay them back for what they did.
" They gave me another opportunity at life to go down to the gym and train, to do things like this. I owe it to them, to live life to the fullest to them back for what they did."
Now Watson and Castleman look forward to what happens next. For Castleman, hopefully some trips and visits to some NFL franchises, and then hearing his name called on NFL Draft weekend. For Watson continuing to follow his new workout buddy and, according to Watson, maybe a trip to an Oklahoma State Cowboys game.
Castleman’s love for the Cowboys and orange has rubbed off on his workout partner as well.
"You can tell that about him. You could tell that in the gym. He's a great guy that you can tell cares. He'll be back here (OSU) because I know how much he loves this place,” Watson said with a big smile. “He easily conveys that. It makes me want to go to an Oklahoma State game. You get me some orange and I'll wear some orange now."
(Special thanks to Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World for the photo of Castleman and Watson.)