Wednesday, September 15, 2004
By Becky Hopf
Tim and Simeon Castille were born only 17 months apart, so perhaps it's only natural that the two brothers from Birmingham are especially close. Housemates all of their young lives, they have chosen, at least for this year, to be college roommates as Tim begins his second year at the University of Alabama and Simeon steps into life as a college freshman. Both are majoring in communications.
Among the many things these two share in common is their destiny to play football for the Crimson Tide. Both were super-successful prep players at Birmingham's Briarwood Christian. When Tim was a mere eighth grader, his play at wide receiver helped Briarwood go undefeated and win the state championship. Tim caught 65 passes for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns that year alone. By the time he graduated from Briarwood, the tally was 4,122 yards and 163 career touchdowns, 41 of those on receptions. Simeon was a USA Today All-American in 2003, a defensive back who also starred on offense. He led Briarwood to the Class 5A state title in 2003.
College coaches yearned for both. But, while both brothers insist that they approached the recruiting process with open minds and sincerely entertained all possibilities, in the end, there was only one choice: Alabama.
That's because Tim and Simeon are Alabama football legacies, sons of one of the University of Alabama's favorite sons, All-American Jeremiah Castille. Jeremiah lettered for Alabama at defensive back for four seasons, from 1979-82. Alabama won the national championship his freshman season, 1979, going a perfect 11-0. Jeremiah and his Tide teammates won the Southeastern Conference Championship in 1981. During his Tide playing career, the Paul "Bear" Bryant-coached teams would go 39-8-1.
From Alabama, Jeremiah would take his game to the NFL, playing for the Tampa Bay Bucs from 1983-86 and the Denver Broncos from 1987-88. Both Tim and Simeon were born while their dad was playing at Tampa Bay.
Simeon's first memories of Alabama football date to first or second grade. He remembers seeing pictures of his dad in an Alabama uniform around the house and occasionally going to Tide football games.
"I also remember seeing some footage, video clips, when I was about eight, from Coach Bryant's last game," recalls Simeon. "We would ask my dad questions like what it was like to play for Bear Bryant. A lot of the times he told us that the most important things he taught them were about life and really not even about football and how Coach Bryant looked out for them and was kind of like a second father to them."
Tim's formal introduction that he recalls, into Alabama football came on the occasion of one of the program's biggest weekends. It was 1992 and the Tide was celebrating its football centennial, 100 years of gridiron greats and great moments. Naturally, his father was among those football legends that were brought back to campus to celebrate and be celebrated.
"I was probably seven or eight when we came for the Team of the Century," said Tim, a sophomore fullback. "They had this huge long line of people waiting to get my dad's autograph. I had no idea how famous he was here. We were living in Phenix City at the time, we were young and we hadn't really come up for many games because it was so far. But we came to that and it's probably the first thing that sticks out in my mind of my early memories of Alabama football. I was so young, that I don't really remember being awestruck by seeing any of those famous former players then. But I think it also had to do with who I'd already met. We lived around Woodrow Lowe and Eddie Lowe, Wilbur Jackson. So we were always around their kids and their families.
"One of my favorite things, as I got older when I was recruited was being able to come down on the field and see the guys up close. That was probably the biggest thing for me, just to see that they were people just like you were. I think that helps you when you are able to be around the guys a little bit."
It was Tim, the oldest of the six Castille children, who made the first move.
"I don't think I've ever really felt any outside pressure from coming here and following my dad," said Tim. "But I think that's because my own expectations are so high. If I don't meet my expectations, then I probably won't meet anybody else's. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and somewhere down the road be an All-American and come in and make plays for this team. So the biggest pressure comes from me, not in what others expect me to be or who they compare me to."
Tim says, despite public speculation, family dinners were not spent discussing college football recruiting. "When we all get together, when we eat dinner, we really don't talk about it. My brother Simeon's funny and I have a younger brother, Caleb, who's just hilarious. So they can keep us laughing at the table. Now if it's just us guys, my brothers and my dad, then maybe we'll talk a little about football. But mostly family dinners are my brothers making us all laugh."
Simeon had the benefit of being the younger sibling. The older sibling, Tim, was the one who had to blaze the trail. By the time Simeon was going through the recruiting process, the Castille's were veterans at that game. And while Simeon was prepared for the process, thanks to his observations of what Tim experienced when Tim stepped into his freshman season at Alabama last year, Simeon once again, had the benefit of his older brother who, he says, is also his best friend.
"I think I observed pretty closely what he was experiencing, what he was going through his first year here, keeping in mind that could be me at Alabama or at another school," said Simeon. "I've always looked up to Tim. To see how well he handled it, that really eased it a little bit for me. I knew that he works hard and I knew that he would push me to work hard. I knew that he would be there for me to help me get through this. The way he handled it encouraged me.
"I think what really excited me the most about the possibilities of coming here was what I was seeing him experience, the 80,000-plus that he got to run out in front of. I know I was a part of the fans last year, and boy they go crazy. I think the most exciting thing I was looking forward to was getting to run out in Bryant-Denny and play on that field."
Tim was aware then, that Simeon was watching, taking it all in, weighing options, making choices. "He was able to come down and see what it was like, be around the guys, see what kind of team we had and what kind of chemistry we have. I really didn't put any pressure on him as far as telling him this is where he needed to go. I thought it was up to him to make his own decision. But we are best friends. If he wouldn't have come here, that would have been kind of weird on both of us to be apart."
For Simeon, there was a temptation to try something different, to blaze a trail of his own. "It was in me to try to branch out, to go someplace different, try something else," he admits. "But I think I ended up in the best place for me. I'm about 45 minutes from home. And I always grew up loving Alabama football. This has been a dream come true for me.
"The day we reported was a great day for me. It was finally here. I'd been waiting to be here--every since I stepped into high school. To finally get down here was definitely exciting."
Following legacies will perhaps be felt the most by Simeon. Tim had to follow a legend, his father. Simeon has to follow two legends, his father and his older brother.
"I'm compared a lot to my dad because if you ever see him, you'd see that we look just alike. And I play the same position that he played. But with Tim and I being so close together in age, that's a constant comparison, too. People are always asking me who's better, me or Tim. But neither my brother nor my dad has ever put any pressure on me to live up to what they've done. I appreciate them just for backing me and believing in me."
Playing on opposite sides of the ball separates these brothers, but, upon occasion, it also brings them together in the literal sense. In the Tide's first scrimmage, Simeon had to bring down---or try to bring down--his big brother. "Oh goodness. It hurt. He's bigger than I thought he was," said Simeon laughing. "I didn't have to hit him in high school that much, and the first time I hit him here, he let me know that he was definitely 230 pounds."
Tim laughs at his little brother's remark. "He hits tougher than I thought he did. I didn't think I was going to have to use as much might as I had to to get back to the goal line. He got real low. He's strong. He's skinny, but he's strong. We never really had a chance to hit like that in high school. And so the opportunity came and I just tried to show him a little brotherly love."
It's with brotherly love, and bemusement, that these two are sharing off the field as roommates as well. No stranger to one another's living habits, Tim says his freshman brother requires a bit of a jump start off the field. "My brother is slow! He is the slowest person in the world. I try to get out, and he just will not come out of the room. He's in the bathroom fixing himself, trying to look pretty. He's coming out late, he's waking up late. Just trying to drag him around has been my biggest challenge."
So far, however, Tim swears there have been no calls home to complain to his mom, Jean Castille. "She knows because when we were in high school he was the same way. I used to just leave him. When I got ready to go to school, if he wasn't ready, I'd just leave him. I'm trying to be a little more patient with him now."
Football has brought Tim and Simeon Castille together at Alabama, but the impetus is the man who first introduced them to Alabama football, their father. They are two sons who clearly love their dad, who see their dad not only as a father but as a role model, perhaps the ultimate role model.
"There are so many things about him that are interesting away from football," says Simeon. "He's probably the greatest man I've known and ever will know. He's my mentor. I look up to him. And, more importantly than with football, he's there to lead me in my spiritual life and teach me how to be a man and handle my family and be a good husband and all those kinds of things that I'm going to have to go throughout life."
Tim's tribute to his dad can be seen each day in practice, each Saturday this fall. He wears his dad's Alabama jersey number, 19, a requested switch from 29 he was issued last season.
"In high school I wore 19," said Tim. "It's the number I'd pretty much worn all my life. When I was young, I had to pick a number. I went through all the numbers that my dad had and I thought 19 looked pretty cool. It was the one I liked the most, so I just got it and kept it.
"I don't think it bothers Simeon that I got that number here because Simeon kind of likes---he's a little different than me," Tim says smiling fondly. "He plays the same position, so I think he likes being a little different, having a different number."
The brothers earned a spot in the record books in the opening game victory over Utah State last week. Simeon intercepted a third quarter pass and returned it thirty-one yards for a touchdown. Not to be outdone, Tim carried nine times for fourty-five yards to a touchdown in the 48-17 victory.
It was the first time brothers had each scored in a game for Alabama since the 1912 game against Marion. Adrien and Hargrove Vande Graff each scored in a 52-0 Crimson Tide rout.
And, speaking of numbers, the Castille streak may not be over. While sisters Leah, Rachel and Danielle are, according to their proud brothers, talented athletes, it's likely they won't be suiting up for football. But the youngest Castille, Caleb, could one day be destined, like his brothers, to don the Crimson and White.
"He's 12 now," said Tim. "My dad wouldn't let any of us play until we were in the seventh grade. This is his first year to play and he's real excited about it, so who knows? He could be next."