Turning Point: Jeremiah Castille

The age of 13 became a turning point for Jeremiah Castille. God gave him a vision and a dream of how to overcome the obstacles in his life and how he could impact the generational problem of alcohol in his family. He talks candidly about his journey and memories of his football days.

Jeremiah Castille has been influencing lives and impacting young men and women to become Godly adults full of character and integrity. And standing strongly by his side is his wife of 26 years, Jean Castille. Together Jeremiah and Jean have six children, Tim, Simeon, Leah, Rachel, Caleb, and Danielle.

Jeremiah grew up in Phenix City, Ala. and attended Central High School where he starred as a running back and defensive back.

"I grew up in a home where both parents had drinking problems," Jeremiah Castille said. "A turning point in my life came at age 13 when I accepted Christ. At that point I felt like God gave me a vision and a dream of how to overcome obstacles that I had in life and what I could do to help with the solution to the alcoholism in my family."

The following is a Q&A with Jeremiah Castille.

Shea Lowery: Who influenced you during your growing up years:

Jeremiah Castille: "Coach Phil Elder coached me in high school. He was my position coach. He really helped sow a seed of a vision when I was in junior high. I really had a lot of respect for him. He was tough, but fair. He helped mold and shape me and he even taught me self-discipline.

"He saw me playing one day in the school yard before school had started, and he walked up to me and asked me had I ever played football before. I said no. I was in seventh grade, and I had never played organized football. He shared with me the talent he saw in me, and it really encouraged me to go out for the team the next year.

"Next would be Coach Wayne Tray. He was my head coach at Central High School, and he really gave me an opportunity to blossom my senior year. I played defensive back all the way up to my senior year. I then played running back, a little receiver and defense back.

"Coach really believed in me. He put me in a leadership role my senior year. I had to step up to the plate and take on the responsibility of being a senior. As a team, we were expected not to have a good year. But, we ended up doing a lot of good things my senior year. We were a playoff team that year because of his leadership and because of his belief in me. I really set a fire among my teammates. We ended up with a pretty good team."

SL: When did Alabama start recruiting you:

JC: "My dream was to play college ball as well as go to school and get an education. I wanted to be able to come back and help my parents. I was small. Physically I didn't have the measurables. But Alabama sent me a letter my junior year. I can remember getting that letter and them being interested in me.

"So going into my senior year, I really worked hard to have a great year. And I did. Alabama, Georgia Tech and some smaller schools recruited me. I think Alabama really recruited me off of the line of good players that had come out of Central High School who had already played at Alabama."

SL: What are some valuable lessons that Coach Bryant taught you while playing under him that you have carried with you to this day:

JC: "The four Ds. You have to make a decision. You have to have a dream. You have to be dedicated. You don't quit."

"You know you have to make a decision about life, about whatever it is you are doing. If it's a sport or if it's a career, whatever it is you got to make a decision about it. And then you have to have a vision for it. You then dedicate yourself to it. And regardless of what it looks like you don't quit.

"This is what I attempt to instill into my children. This is the philosophy I have raised them in. Especially getting them to make a decision about life."

SL: How important is mentoring:

JC: "It is absolutely necessary. There is no such thing as a man pulling himself up by his bootstraps. Everybody that is successful has had the hand of a mentoring relationship."

Jeremiah's call into ministry:

"I had been in the NFL for five or six years. While playing football, there were some great Godly men who mentored me. I desired to have the same type of Christ likeness that I saw in the men who really mentored me spiritually.

"As I grew in my relationship over the years of playing football, I grew more in love in with the Lord to the point where I could hear the Lord saying, 'OK It's time for you to go on to what I have called you to do.' Football is something He called me to do, but it was a platform for me to use. A lifetime of ministry was what I was able to hear God calling me to do with my life at about 29 years of age.

"I took time off and really sought the Lord. Really I just sat before the Lord and got to know Him and learned to hear His voice. I called a friend who was older than me and had a ministry. He was a minister friend, and I told him what my dilemma was and what I was wrestling with.

"A career in coaching and doing some things verses just taking time out to let the Lord direct me about what He had for me to do. And he told me to take some time and sit with the Lord and learn to hear His voice. And that is what I did.

"During that time I moved back to Alabama for about a four year period. I basically served my father who was bed-ridden and spent my time with the Lord."

SL: A character of a great leader is to Evaluate: "Nothing so more proves a man's ability to lead others as what he does from day to day to lead himself." How important is it for a leader to evaluate himself every day:

JC: "I tell people this story about Coach Bryant. We went to practice my senior year in the Spring. Coach Bryant put all the coaches up in the stands, and he coached every position by himself. He had to be 68 years of age then. He was showing his coaches that he coached by example and that everything he ask them to do, he could do himself. That really spoke to me over the years.

"Today I have an accountability group of young men. At 4:00 in the morning we get up and we are in the gym by 5:00am We work out pretty much every day together. I am the oldest. It is my way of evaluating myself on a daily basis. And it doesn't matter what time I get in at night or in the morning, I still get up. I think you have to have a standard like that which still pushes you. That is what I saw from Coach Bryant.

"Here he was a legend. He had accomplished everything in life and at 68 years of age, he could show his coaches that he still had a passion and a fire with a desire to do what he had been doing for all the years of his coaching career. That has never left my mind. That has been burned in my mind. You don't lead from behind. I think that is a problem in our country today. People are leading from behind. What we saw from him was that you lead from the front."

SL: While mentoring young people, what are some cautions you give to them and what do you tell them to uphold to and never back down from:

JC: Cautions: "The number one thing you have to develop in a mentor relationship is the ability to listen. Most people don't develop the ability to listen. I think we take for granted that we are good listeners. The next thing we take for granted is that we are good communicators because we grew up talking. We have been talking all our lives. So what I try to do is establish a good level of communication with them. We can take those things for granted so we have to be cautious about that."

JC: Never back down from and always uphold to: "One thing to uphold to is the area of compromise. Don't compromise the standards you should have in life. If you don't reach that level or come to that standard, you keep striving. But you don't make an excuse or try to lower that standard. Always keep the standard high, and you just keep working so you can get to that standard."

SL: What is your responsibility at the University of Alabama with the football team:

JC: "I preach on Saturdays, and I bring a chapel message four hours before the game. I build relationships with some of the players and get a chance to mentor them and help them with things they might need help with. Coaches and players attend chapel. During the week I do a Bible study for the student body at the University of Alabama."

SL: How do you become a champion from within:

JC: "I think everybody has what it takes. First of all, I think it has to be a decision you have to make. It's a decision that you are going to win at life. I don't think you can win at life without God. But it is a decision you make about God because I think He sets the standards in our lives. We don't have a standard without Him. We don't have integrity without Him.

"You make a decision, and then you have to have a dream with what God wants you to do with your life and then that is what you passionately pursue. You pursue your dream with passion.

"You can't be a champion without passion. All champions are passionate and you can't have passion without having a vision or a dream because the passion is in the dream. That's why people love athletics because they are seeing people live life with passion. Any sport you play is done with passion.

"What's sad is people get to a place in their lives where they don't have a vision or a dream and therefore, they don't live life with a passion. But you can't be a champion without passion. That's what will drive you to cross what I call the finish line. And you ought to cross the finish line everyday."

SL: Define Team:

JC: "Together each accomplishes more. That is, that the sum total of everybody is greater than the individual."

SL: Define Character:

JC: "Who you are all the time, not just behind closed doors. All the time. It is your belief system. What you are made up of."

SL: What do you want your life to reflect the most:

JC: "When it is all said and done that he loved God and loved people."

SL: What is your greatest goal as a person:

JC: "To love God."

Favorite Quote: "This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever. Leaving something in its place I have traded for it. I wanted it to be gain not loss, good not evil, success not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it." --Coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant

Favorite food: "Anything my wife cooks."

Favorite movie: "Gladiators."

Family fun: "Laugh. We like to travel and go places. We just like to be together. When we are together our family has fun."

The famous fumble:

JC: "We were playing the Cleveland Browns. I was with the Denver Broncos, and we were in the AFC Championship game of the 1987 season. It was my first year there in Denver. I had been released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during camp, and the Denver Broncos picked me up.

"Basically during that season, I didn't get a chance to play except for what you call a passing situation. I was the nickel back. That is when the fifth defensive back comes in the game on a passing situation. So we got through the season, and we were in the play-offs and before we played the Cleveland Browns, I had a chance to pray. I asked the Lord to put me in the game and let me make something happen in the game. That is what I prayed.

"I had read an article in the paper before we played that Denver would get beat that year because the year before John Elway had beaten the Cleveland Browns in the last minute with what they call 'The Drive.' And this year they were predicting we would get beat. So I just prayed to the Lord to let me get in that game and make something happen.

"We went up by 18 points in the first half. During the second half, Earnest Byner came out, and he was really having a great game. The game got close to where they were within one score, one touchdown of being able to win the game.

"During the 4th quarter, I was jogging off the field after a passing situation and the Defensive Coordinator waved me back on the field. He said for me to get back in the game and I asked him, "For what?" He told me that Steve Wilson, the guy I played behind, caught a cramp in his calf. And then I got fired up and excited and said, "Lord, you're gonna allow me to really make the play in this game. That is awesome."

"So the game got tight, and it came down to about a minute to go or less in the game. They were driving the ball, and they had the ball on our six yard line. The score was 31 to 38. They were within one score of actually tying the game. And so they got the ball on the six yard line, and I was in man coverage.

"I got in a man-bump position. And when I got in that position, the thought crossed my mind that I got beat a series before in that same position. So I decided to back off of my man and play him from an off position. When I did, it allowed me to see the play develop.

"They ran a little quick toss sweep to Earnest, and we met on about the one or two yard line. It was just he and I, and it was like I had 24 days to think about what I was going to do. Everything slowed down at that point. If you saw the game you would see that nobody had stopped Earnest the entire second half. I wasn't big enough to stop him. He had tremendous legs on him and and I froze in time thinking, "What do I do?"
"I didn't want to tackle him. He was so close to scoring that I think he started to raise the ball up and just kind of loosen his grip on it. And the thought crossed my mind, "Hit the ball, knock the ball out of his hands, that's what you ought to do."

"That sounded like a better idea to me than trying to tackle him because he would just have taken me on in the end zone. I hit the ball, and when I hit it I fell on my back right there on the one yard line. And I tell people God just placed the ball down on my side instead of it scooting through the end zone. All I had to do was roll over on top of the ball. I had about two tons of Cleveland Browns on top of me. I was praising God, and I think they were saying some other things."

Castille tells Coach Bryant how he influenced his life and challenges the entire team before the Liberty Bowl, which was Coach Bryant's last game of his season and Jeremiah's as well:

JC: "It was before the Liberty Bowl Game in 1982. I was a 22 year old shy young man that had become a man and matured there at Alabama. I was just prompted before that game like never before in all the four years I was there to get up in front of the team and tell coach Bryant how I felt about him. All I can say is that is what God prompted me to do.

"I was nervous, and it took me a little while to make up my mind that I was going to ask Coach Bryant if I could say something. And so when I finally got the nerve up, I got up and I said, "Coach Bryant, I just wanna thank you for everything you have done for me. I came here four years ago as an 18 year old boy and tonight I'm leaving here as a 22 year old man. Coach, there ain't no way we're gonna lose the game tonight. Not if I have anything to do with it."

"I really expressed to him how I felt, but I think it pumped the team up and it got guys thinking about what Coach Bryant had done for them and how they felt about him. So during that process I had come to understand him and his policy and I grew to love him. God knew that would be the last time I would say something to him personally. Three weeks later he died. He went out a winner.

"After we won the Liberty Bowl they were congratulating him on his career. He had a big old jacket on and as he accepted the Liberty Trophy he put his arm around me and said, "Well you know, I've had a great career because of little men like this right here." He really gave the credit to his players. I was Liberty Bowl MVP that game. I played with a lot of passion."

SL: What is the most memorable game you ever played at Alabama:

JC: "The Liberty Bowl because of the game it was. Coach Bryant's last game, my last game, my senior year and then me having the game that I had and the plays that I played. I said, "We gonna win it if I got to go play it by myself. Whatever it takes."

Today Jeremiah Castille's life still echos that same message but in a different way. "Whatever it takes God I will follow you. If I have to follow you by myself."

Jeremiah is an incredible man of God, and people see it in his daily life. And now he carries his influence on to yet another area God has opened up for him. The Jeremiah Castille Foundation Center.

God led Jeremiah and Jean Castille to open a center to help inner city kids. Both husband and wife have always been big on mentoring and have been mentoring out of their home for several years. They discovered how they could have a greater impact through the center.

Jeremiah said, "We have raised people out of our home. We have taken people in, young men, young women to live with us."

They soon discovered how to impact more people's lives, and in 2005 a building was purchased and currently under renovation.

Jeremiah stated, "We can put our hands on more young people on a daily basis."

"What I see the Jeremiah Castille Community Foundation Center doing is:
A.) Breaking generational poverty
B.) Breaking generational high school drop outs
C.) Breaking generational drug abuse

"Generational curses that are epidemic in the inner city. We want to use the center to break that epidemic and then raise up what we call champions. We want to let young people know God created them to be a champion, and they can overcome the obstacles of adversity in their environment.

"The offices will be ready by the early Spring of next year where we can start having about 40 boys come in by just using office space temporarily and then getting our building up for 2010."

SL: How can people help:

JC: "They can go to CastilleFoundation.org. We need money to get the center up and then we can get kids in. Then we can get grant money. To get our center up, we have to come up with private funds. And in the economy being like it is has been challenging, but we will overcome it. It may have slowed us down, but it is not going to stop us."

Jeremiah Castille Community Development Center focuses on children ages 7 to 18 and provides an Christian environment to challenge the inner-city youth to excel to higher heights, provide positive role models in their communities, disciple youth and develop Godly individuals.

A trained staff of men and women of integrity and faith will provide computer training and coordinated job training courses, job mentoring and placement, controlled recreational activities, academic counseling, one-on-one tutoring, home-work assistance, life-skills training and character education. Building one child at a time to impact generations is our goal.

Jeremiah Castille Ministry provides ministerial programs for marriage, family and individual Biblical counseling, individual and group discipleship, motivational speaking forums and evangelist engagements.

In closing, Jeremiah was asked how he most wanted to be remembered.

He said, "That I lived life to the fullest."

Shea Lowery is the Director of Quinn's Ranch Children's Home.
Quinn's Ranch

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