Castillo, others, warm to Hispanic roots

Luis Castillo has just begun to get settled into his roots as a San Diego Charger but holds his heritage just as close to his heart. A first round draft pick in 2005, his aim is to bring football back to a land dominated by baseball – with San Diego the perfect place to spread the word.

Almost 80 years after the first Hispanic – halfback Lou Molinet of the Frankford Yellowjackets in 1927 – played in the NFL, Hispanic players are more and more making an impact on the league.

In a country where the U.S. Census Bureau says that Hispanics are the largest minority, and that the Hispanic population is growing at a faster rate than the population as a whole, Hispanic players are making their mark on the NFL.

"I'm Dominican, and I'd love to have a chance to go back there and get them more involved in (football)," Castillo said. "To be in this neighborhood and this community, being a Hispanic football player, it's a huge blessing. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to bring more Hispanics into football."

First-round draft choice Luis Castillo is slated to start at defensive end for the San Diego Chargers.

"I'm a first-round draft pick and I have things to prove," says Castillo. "If the Chargers are going to give me the opportunity to come here and be a playmaker, I have to accept that challenge and make plays."

Tony Gonzalez led the NFL in receptions last year with 102, the highest total ever for an NFL tight end. As he enters his ninth year with the Chiefs, Gonzalez needs only nine more TDs to assume the all-time lead for scoring receptions by a tight end. Gonzalez played in his sixth Pro Bowl last season.

Gonzalez was joined in the Pro Bowl by guard Marco Rivera who has signed with the Dallas Cowboys this year. When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones announced the additon of Rivera, he used words like "leadership" and "professionalism" to explain why he had reached the Pro Bowl in each of his last three seasons with Green Bay. The nine-year veteran expects to make his 100th consecutive regular-season start on kickoff weekend.

This year, the Buffalo Bills' first-round selection in 2004, J.P. Losman will start at quarterback for the team.

"The guys believe in me, the coaches believe in me, I'm surely but slowly starting to believe," says Losman. "I have this thing that I don't care what people tell me, what teammates or coaches say. I always feel like I can do better."

A list of some of the 2005 Hispanic NFL Players:

Player Position Team
Ken Amato LS Tennessee
Tony Gonzalez TE Kansas City
Richard Angulo TE Minnesota
Jason Jimenez T Detroit
Adam Archuleta S St. Louis
Victor Leyva G New England
Jason Babin LB Houston
Hugo Lira WR Carolina
Rolando Cantu G Arizona
J.P. Losman QB Buffalo
Luis Castillo T San Diego
Joe Maese LS Baltimore
Jorge Cordova LB Jacksonville
Zeke Moreno LB Houston
Ronnie Cruz RB Kansas City
Carlos Perez WR Philadelphia
Donnie Edwards LB San Diego
Walter Reyes RB Tennessee
Jeff Garcia QB Detroit
Marco Rivera G Dallas
Roberto Garza C Chicago
Dario Romero DT Miami
Joaquin Gonzalez T Indianapolis
Scott Tercero G St. Louis

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