National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time when the contributions and achievements of Hispanic/Latino Americans are recognized in the United States.
The Baltimore Ravens are one of a handful of teams with an Hispanic coach on their staff. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo has been a model of consistency and hard work since he came to the team.
The road to the Ravens wasn’t an easy one for Castillo. He spent time as a defensive line and linebackers coach at Kingsville High School in Texas before coaching the offensive and defensive line at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Four of the offensive linemen coached by Castillo went on to the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles hired Castillo as an offensive assistant in 1995. The following year, the Eagles used a draft pick on Jermane Mayberry, one of the linemen that Castillo coached in college. Castillo coached the tight ends for the Eagles in 1997 before switching to the offensive line in 1998. It was at that point that he really got to work with Mayberry and helped him to develop into a Pro Bowl player in 2002.
Castillo coached the Eagles offensive line for 13 seasons before becoming the team’s defensive coordinator in 2012. Things didn’t work out in 2012 for a variety of reasons and Castillo joined the Ravens coaching staff in January of 2013. He and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh coached together for the Eagles.
Fortunately for Castillo, Harbaugh and the Ravens were making their push towards a Super Bowl title.
The Ravens drafted a big, but raw prospect out of Iowa State University named Kelechi Osemele in the 2012 NFL Draft. Osemele was forced into action when starter Jah Reid was injured. Castillo helped Osemele adjust to the NFL, which was key to solidifying the Ravens offensive. Osemele did an outstanding job against one of the top defensive lineman, Justin Smith and the San Francisco 49ers, when the two teams faced off for the Super Bowl trophy. The offensive line play was a key factor in the Ravens winning that game.
Castillo came from a small college called Texas A&I. He played linebacker in college and got a taste of professional football while playing for the San Antonio Gunslingers of the USFL.
He has always taken an interest in small school prospects because he has the same background. The Ravens selected Robert Myers in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Castillo really liked Myers because he reminds him of Osemele.
The work ethic that Castillo displays is inspirational. It’s not unusual for him to be the first to arrive at the facility. Getting an early start is something that he learned early in his life. His dad made a living by fishing for shrimp. He would wake Juan up at 3:30 a.m. to go to the fish house. Tragedy struck the Castillo family when his father fell from a boat and drowned, which left Castillo’s mother with the responsibility of making ends meet for the family. She worked two jobs and did her best. Watching her grind instilled the two biggest values that Castillo lives by today. Those values are his work ethic and the importance of always treating people with respect.
Castillo’s drive has not gone unnoticed by Osemele.
“He’s a hard worker through-and-through; it’s to his core. He just wants to make sure that he’s doing everything that he can to put us in a position to win.” Osemele said. “We have meetings before everybody else gets started, but that’s pretty traditional for offensive line in general. He just wants to make sure that we’re prepared.”
The Ravens offensive line has become one of the best units in the NFL. He shared what stood out the most to him about the line last season.
“Justin [Forsett] led the league last year in explosive runs.” Castillo said. “Also, the thing that was key last year was the Ravens led the NFL— in the fourth quarter— in attempts and yards and yards per carry in the fourth quarter.”
The value of hard work and respect is something that Castillo has taken as his personal mission to instill in his players. He drives them to be great and has taken the time to learn how to individually coach each of his linemen. Castillo has made a great contribution to the Ravens organization by helping to mold the players into men. His description of the formula for success is pretty simple.
“I found out, if you want to be better than someone, you’ve got to outwork them,” Castillo said. “How can you beat a guy or be better than a guy if you’re doing the same work he is? You have to have a plan . . . and the plan consists of a lot of hard work.”
Castillo has worked to promote the game to everyone, especially Spanish-speaking audiences. In 2002, Castillo and his wife were special invitees of President George W. Bush for a special Cinco de Mayo Celebration at the White House. He hopes that his achievements will inspire many more people to be great, especially young Mexican-Americans.