By John Philip Wyllie
Based on what we have seen so far, the San Diego Chargers could be in for one of their most memorable seasons in recent years. At the heart of that success has been their stifling defense which blanked the Raiders in the season opener and nearly shut out the Titans. Second-year defensive end, Luis Castillo is one of the many reasons the Chargers defense is thriving. He is looking forward to another banner year.
“Approaching the season this year, I have a completely different mentality. I know what I am capable of doing and I know how I can improve. In some areas I am much better than I was a year ago. And there is a little bit of pressure now to take that next step and become a great player in this league.”
During his rookie season, Castillo became a nearly instant success. He broke into the starting lineup in week two and went on to garner NFL All-Rookie honors. He and Shawne Merriman seem destined to become the cornerstones of what may be a dominant defense for many years to come.
“I don’t want to be (thought of as) a guy that just has a lot of potential. I want to use it on the field. Coming out of college as a defensive tackle, I was pretty good at stopping the run. I was pretty good at staying in my gap and handling my defensive responsibilities. When I got here and had to play defensive end, pass rushing was all new to me. I can honestly say that I spent the first eight to 10 games last year learning the technique to become a better pass rusher. It is pretty exciting to see what is going to happen now to a young defense that already had 50 sacks last year.”
On the field Castillo is all business. He is tough, hard-hitting and tenacious, but off the field, his laid back easy going personality make him a natural for personal and promotional appearances. His Hispanic background and fluency in Spanish made him an obvious selection this summer for a Chargers promotional appearance in Tijuana. He and former Charger, Robert Ortiz, visited some high school football programs.
“It was great to have the chance to get down there and see how much love they have for the game. It was interesting to see their teams and realize that they really follow it. It was also great to show those kids what we are like. Robert and I are just kids that grew up in a similar environment to them. We both worked really hard to get to where we are. So we told them that with hard work anything is possible.”
While that was Castillo’s first venture into the Hispanic community on behalf of the Chargers, he hopes it will not be his last.
“When I first got drafted here my initial thought was that this would be a great market for me to make a difference and an impact. I know we get a lot of support from the Hispanic community. Now that they know I am here, I am definitely willing and able to use my Spanish to do things like that. Hopefully there will be a lot more opportunities to get things like that done.”