The Daily Nole

A Matter of Perseverance: 6-Year Noles Revisit FSU Careers

Teammates sometimes called them grandpa or made jokes about social security or growing up in the great depression, but for former Florida State athletes, David Castillo and Andrew Wilson, the early parts of their careers were no laughing matter.

Castillo, who spent six years as a center on the football team from 2000-05, dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his time at FSU. Castillo received a medical redshirt in each of his first two seasons with the program.

“Over the course of my career I ended up having one knee surgery, four surgeries on my left hand, two surgeries on my right ring finger, and two on my right foot,” he said. “Some of the worst injuries I suffered I did not end up having surgery for. These including tearing my left pectoralis muscle three times, tearing my hamstring, bulging discs in my neck and back, high ankle sprain, torn MCL and meniscus three times.”

Wilson, a shooting guard and small forward on the basketball team, played for the Seminoles from 2000-06, becoming the first 6-year basketball player in the history of the ACC. Wilson received a medical redshirt after suffering a knee injury in what would have been his redshirt freshman season and received another after playing in just five games during the 2002-03 season before being sidelined by a wrist injury.

“Being the first 6-year player in ACC history was definitely not a record I planned to break when I signed with FSU,” Wilson said. “My knee injury my second year was not tough to come back from. Our trainer, Sam Lunt, did a great job with me after injuring my MCL in the first game of the year at Florida. The hardest part of being injured and on the sideline was not being able to play and contribute.”

Contribute is something both Castillo and Wilson would do over the course of their careers. After earning meaningful playing time at the end of his third season in 2002, Castillo would lock down the center position for his final three years at FSU, helping the Seminoles win a pair of ACC championships over that span and four total during his tenure.

“He was a real dependable player, very accountable,” said Bryant McFadden, a former FSU cornerback and a 5-year teammate of Castillo’s.”Any time he was on the field, we knew he was going to do what he was supposed to do. He was never the most gifted lineman, but he played with a lot of passion. He played with a lot of attitude and was very, very relentless.”

Castillo’s on-the-field success however, rarely came without pain. Castillo compared what the training staff had to do to get him ready for practice following a 2003 foot injury to a movie production.

“I ended up having a extra firm carbon metal shank put in my shoe and a custom made cast for my foot, so I could finish out the season,” Castillo said of his foot fracture in 2003. “I had to get there an hour early to get a special tape job on my foot, the cast put on, more tape, my shoe (which was two sizes larger than my left foot at this point), and then more tape over my shoe and ankle. I ended up also tearing my meniscus and MCL in my leg that year so by the end of the season where we played Florida, I could barely bend my right knee and was blocking on the side of my foot because of the shank and cast. At the end of the season, I got five titanium screws put in my foot.”

After playing just five games in his first three years on campus, Wilson finally was able to become a legitimate contributor for the Seminoles during the 2003-04 campaign. That year, FSU finished 19-14 with wins over ranked Maryland, North Carolina and Wake Forest teams. In the school’s second season under head coach Leonard Hamilton, the Seminoles completed their first winning campaign in six years.

“Because of NCAA rules, there was no guarantee that I would be able to receive a second consecutive medical redshir,” Wilson said. “I had to wait several weeks after the conclusion of the season to hear the verdict. I can remember the exact moment and what I was doing when Coach Hamilton called me to inform me that I was granted a second medical redshirt.”

Over his final three seasons, Wilson would become one of Florida State’s best on-the-ball defenders and his ability to knock down the 3-point shot helped FSU stretch the floor offensively. Wilson made 47 starts over his final three seasons and as a senior during the 2005-06 season, he averaged a career-high 6.3 points per contest while shooting 50 percent from deep.

“Andrew was a hard-nosed old school tough player who would run through a brick wall for the team,” said former FSU center Mike Mathews, a 4-year teammate of Wilson’s. “He was very defensive-minded and his motto was always to outwork his opponent. He was a very good shooter too. He didn’t let his injuries stop him.”

After helping the Seminoles finish 9-3 and ranked in the top 15 nationally in 2004, Castillo questioned whether or not it would be wise to come back for a sixth season in the garnet and gold.

“I started to get pressure from my parents about giving up football. I had already graduated and they wanted me to focus on going to medical school,” he said. “I spoke with our team chaplain about my thoughts about not coming back for the sixth year I was granted by the NCAA. He told me he wanted me to talk more with my parents and also with then President (T.K.) Wetherell and after we talked if I still felt that strongly about not coming back, we would go to Coach (Bobby) Bowden and tell him. I met with him and he told me the story how when he played football, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 14th round and he instead went on to graduate school. He told me how his life obviously turned out very well with him being the former speaker of the house and then president of FSU, but he said there wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t wish that he went to play for the Green Bay Packers because how many people get that opportunity?”

The 2005 season — Castillo’s sixth at FSU — started out with a bang for the Seminoles. In the nationally televised season-opener on Labor Day night, FSU snapped a 6-game losing streak to rival Miami, winning 10-7.

“Beating Miami in the season-opener in 2005 was absolutely one of the highlights in my career,” Castillo said. “I grew up a Miami Hurricanes fan. I was going to be the first player in NCAA history to go 0-7 against a team if we didn’t win that game.”

Castillo’s moment of triumph however, was greeted by yet another medical scare shortly thereafter.

“Probably the scariest injury was after we beat Miami,” he said. “Just before the game, the Nike rep came in and basically made me change my cleats because they were so dirty. Since my foot injury in 2003, I wore the same pair of cleats for practice and games. I figured my foot was fine and wore a brand new pair of cleats. Well, after the game my foot was killing me. Long story short, I ended up with compartment syndrome in my foot and got operated on two days later. I remember the orthopedic surgeon telling me if I would have waited a few more hours, he would have possibly had to amputate my foot. Instead, he only had to remove a portion of the muscle in the outside part of my foot.”

Castillo missed the following two games, but wound up starting 11 games as a senior and helped the Seminoles upset No. 5 Virginia Tech in the inaugural ACC Championship.

“My sixth year was an amazing experience. I was named one of the team captains,” he said. “I was well respected by the coaches, athletic training staff, and my teammates. Of course, I was the butt of everybody’s jokes in the locker room. I was called grandpa. I got asked what it was like growing up during the great depression. What it was like before TV — stuff like that.”

Wilson also received the “old man” jokes during his tenure with the Seminoles, but rather than from his teammates, Wilson said it was the coaching staff that led the charge.

“I can remember them teasing me about stealing tax payer money,” Wilson said. “At the same time, I think the players on the team had a certain respect for me, that I had been around and seen it all. I was a part of the FSU program when we were at the bottom, and I was apart of the program as we were starting to make great strides in the ACC. I always prided myself on being the hardest worker and being a vocal leader at practice.”

Over the course of Wilson’s career, he helped FSU emerge from one of the ACC’s bottom-feeders to a 20-win team and one of the top five programs in college basketball’s most prestigious conference.

“My final season on campus, I was 23 years old,” Wilson said. “The incoming freshmen were 18. The experiences I had been through after five years of playing college basketball in the ACC was vastly different from their experiences. From the beginning, it wasn’t necessarily difficult to connect with the younger guys, as I think they looked to me for guidance. I think they looked at me as a coach on the floor. I knew the system, inside and out.”

Today, Wilson serves as an assistant coach at Georgia Southern under Mark Byington. Wilson said his six years at FSU helped spur his career in coaching.

“FSU did a great deal for me as far as preparing me for a life in coaching,” he said. “First off, we had a great coaching staff who I still keep in close contact with to this day. I learned so much from Leonard Hamilton and his associate head coach Stan Jones, and feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to grow under them. They instilled in me a thirst and hunger for the intricacies of the game that I didn’t have before. I believe the sign of a great coach is seeing your players wanting to develop into coaches themselves, which was certainly the case with me.”

Castillo remains in Tallahassee, working as a medical doctor, specializing in family medicine.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a doctor,” Castillo said. “I always had a plan A and a plan 1A –professional athlete or doctor. There was no other choice. I was always interested in orthopedic surgery growing up but the six hand surgeries, among other things, made me change my career aspirations.”

McFadden said the rest of the team took notice of what Castillo was going through. The fact that he continued to fight made him easy to pull for, McFadden said.

“Seeing him having to rehab and all of us knowing how difficult that could be physically and mentally, we rooted for David,” McFadden said.”To see him be able to persevere and to battle through those injuries and have success on the football field was huge.”

Wilson said he never really gave much thought to being the first 6-year player in the ACC until his coaching career began. Prior to arriving at Georgia Southern, Wilson was an assistant at College of Charleston under Bobby Cremins. Before arriving in Charleston, Cremins spent 19 years as head coach at Georgia Tech, leading the Yellow Jackets to three ACC titles and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Final Four in 1990.

“Coach Cremins would always introduce me as, ‘this is my assistant, Andrew Wilson — the first 6-year player in the history of the ACC’,” Wilson said. “Having an ACC legend introduce you as a part of history is a pretty cool thing.”

During Wilson’s six years at FSU, the Seminoles twice finished on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament, but were ultimately one of the first teams out.

“The one thing I wish I could’ve accomplished as a player was getting to the NCAA Tournament,” Wilson said. “We were so close in 2003-04 and 2005-06. It still stings to this day that I couldn’t help the Noles get to the big dance.”

While Castillo’s injuries didn’t shape his career path, they did shape him as a person and a football player.

“All of my injuries taught me not only toughness, but also perseverance,” the former center said. “Looking back on my career, I am proudest of the way I played the game. I was always prepared and was never outworked. I spent the extra time watching film trying to gain any little advantage I could on an opponent. I always was one of the best conditioned linemen. I never missed a workout and stayed in Tallahassee every single summer during my six years. I knew I had to do these things because I wasn’t the biggest, the strongest, fastest, or most athletic.”

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