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How Coach Bear Bryant Saved and Changed My Life

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
June 6, 2024 3:02 am

How Coach Bear Bryant Saved and Changed My Life

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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June 6, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Jeremiah Castille played college football for the Alabama Crimson Tide and was on the last team coached by the legendary “Bear” Bryant.

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And we continue with our American Stories. Jeremiah Castile played college football for the Alabama Crimson Tide and was on the last team coached by the legendary Bear Bryant. Castile was a pallbearer at Bryant's funeral on January 28, 1983. Let's take a listen to his story. I was born in 1961, Columbus, Georgia. My father was a World War II vet, number eight of nine children. They had about a fourth grade education. I was born in the projects government housing there at Elizabeth County Apartments. Then we moved to Phoenix City, Alabama. I was probably three years old.

So around 1964, we moved and none of my siblings graduated from high school. The drugs, the alcohol, what I saw at home. Domestic violence was in my house. My mom and dad fought. So at school, that's how I solved my problems with any of my any of my classmates. I'm not talking.

We're just going to get right at it. And in my middle school during my seventh grade year, I got in a fight again. I had already been suspended from school for fighting. And I had to take the note home to my mom for my parents to sign. And it was a day my mother was sober. So she signed it and she was handing it back to me. She said, boy, I'm so disappointed in you. The Lord used that to grip my heart as a 13 year old. It just gripped my heart. I took her back to school, finished the year out and really realized I needed to change. So the little church was Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, a little church down the street.

They would do revival every summer. So I have no interest in going to church. Any of that hadn't, you know, before that. But God drew me based on I had a I realized I needed to change and I went. And so when you came in, the mothers and fathers of that church asked you, were you saved? And I really didn't know what that meant.

They say, you must not be. Go sit on the front row. So they escorted me to the front row and they called it the mourners bench. And the mothers and fathers of that church, the elders, they just prayed for those people that was on that front row. And I would say about the third day of that revival, the Lord saved me. And what it was is I heard the gospel, the good news that God loved me. And he demonstrated that love through Jesus Christ on the cross. The first time in my life, it was communicated to Jeremiah that he was loved.

I would say my parents showed me that by providing a place to live, food, pretty much those basic things, but never communicated verbally that I was loved. And all the way up to that time, my mom would get intoxicated and just get violent. So one day I probably was 10. My mom had a knife in her hand, a kitchen knife, and I wanted to go play basketball. She was intoxicated.

We got her in. Anyway, I ended up with a two-inch scar on my right arm and had me take to the hospital stitches to put in my arm. So I was dealing with a lot of rejection. So that third day, I heard the gospel. And for the first time, hey, somebody loved Jeremiah. I tell people I walked in that church or sinner, walked out a saint. That was a radical moment in my life.

There wasn't a lightning and flash. There was a powerful transformation in my heart, in my inner man. And the reason I can say that is because the first person God gave me a love for was my mother. Now, when God saved me, he gave me a vision for my life, that in the Castile House, things could be different and that he could use me. And so God gave me a vision to play football. Football really came to be what I wanted to do in the University of Alabama, probably my eighth grade year. And so through athletics, I could get a scholarship, go to school, get an education, get a job, make enough money to be able to help my mother get sober and change the living conditions of my parents.

And that vision disciplined me. I grew up in a home where drugs and alcohol were sold, but I've never smoked marijuana cigarette. I've never drank a beer.

I've never been intoxicated. That's the power of a dream. And the dream mattered more than recreational fun that I could have with teenagers. And so when the Lord saved me, I just became focused on that. And I became an Alabama fan. I also started watching the Coach Bryant show. And the vision was, I'm going to Alabama. I'm going to go play football at Alabama. I was 5'9", 155 pounds.

It weren't a bunch of people knocking on the door. I had a breakout year my senior year. I played both ways. I played running back, slot receiver, and corner.

And our team actually made it to the playoffs. We got beat, but it gave schools a chance to look at me. And I was just small, but I was very athletic.

I could run and jump, and was strong. So I can remember where I got my first letter from the University of Alabama. My coach, Wayne Traver, in high school, he came in one morning in the cafeteria, and he dropped a letter on the table. And it had the University of Alabama, and I opened it up. And it said that I was being recruited. And man, I start yelling, screaming. I ran out the doors to the schoolyard.

Yelling, I told you all. You know, because I would tell people I was going to Alabama. So I came over in the fall of 1978, met Coach Bryant. Coach Jeff Rousey was the coach that recruited me. And he and I would talk 30 years later. And so he told me, he said, you know, when you first met Coach Bryant, and he looked at you, and you'd walked off. He said, Jeff, you sure about him?

He's mighty little. And Coach Rousey said, trust me, coach, he can play. Well, I'm a freshman in 1979. And that team is the returning national champions. And that team is loaded. It's got a lot of guys that's going to go on to play in the NFL.

So I come in as a freshman in August. And that first week, Coach Bryant made us scrimmage the varsity. He sicked the dogs, almost, man.

I mean, that's the best way to me. And so that first week, you scrimmage the returning national champions. I can remember, like yesterday, and they ran this little belly play. And Steve Whitman was the fullback at that time. He hit it.

It was one of these quick hitting plays. And I was backside tiny. And next thing you know, it's just me and Steve.

And Steve's about to turn 45, 50-pound fullback. And I'm like, man, what am I going to do? And I was one of those guys. I wasn't afraid of anything. So I just come up and laid all 155 pounds on a pop.

And it didn't bring him down. But I start riding him till the posse got there. A couple of weeks later, I'm coming in after practice, and I got a pink sticky note on my locker. And it said, Coach Bryant, I want to see you. Man, I am scared as all get out. I'm like, what have I done?

You know, what have I done wrong? Anyway, I go up third floor at Coleman Coliseum in his office. And Linda Knowles was secretary. She said, Coach, I'll be with you in a minute. Man, it was a long minute. Door opens up.

She says, you can go on in. And when I walked in, Coach Bryant was sitting behind his desk, and he was smoking those Chesterfield cigarettes that he smoked and didn't have a filter on. And he was just, and he put it in the ashtray. And he just murmured some words.

He had that old Southern drawl. And I interpreted to go sit on the couch. He had a black and white checkered couch in his office. When you sat down on him, he said, when you sat down on him, your bottom hit the floor because it didn't have any legs on it. So you were looking up at him. And you've been listening to Jeremiah Castile tell one heck of a story about his life.

And by the way, that scene of him being called into Bear Bryant's office, and Bear is a big old man, like 6'4". And I can imagine this short guy sitting in a short couch and wondering what the heck is going to happen next. When we come back, you'll find out what does happen next here on Our American Stories. HANNAH JEWEL There's a lot happening these days, but I have just the thing to get you up to speed on what matters without taking too much of your time. The Seven from The Washington Post is a podcast that gives you the seven most important and interesting stories.

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So follow The Seven right now. And we continue with Our American Stories and Jeremiah Castile's story. Let's pick up where he last left off in Coach Bear Bryant's office. JERRY CASTILE So I sit down, and the first words Coach Bryant said to me was, you could play here at the University of Alabama.

I'm thinking, yeah, when my turn comes. I was behind Don McNeil. He was a great one. 6'1", 200-pound prototype NFL cornerback. Gonna go in the first round to the Miami Dolphins and and play 10 years.

Well, that's who I'm behind. So I'm thinking, yeah, I'll play with my turn come coach. His next words were, you could play this year.

And I'm like, wow. Coach Bryant believe I could play this year. There hasn't been probably the greatest words ever been spoken to me was that God loved me.

Those were the next greatest words. I tell people, I walked in 5'9", walked out 6'9". When he said, you could play this year. So what he was telling me was, you're not going to play freshman football. You're going to play on the varsity. And boy, did I play.

Yeah. So I had some confidence. But when Coach Bryant said that, it took me to an entire another level of confidence. It amazes me to this day how, because of that first initial meeting and then from there on what Coach Bryant said, I took it as the gospel. Every word.

I hung on every word he said. And it made me a great player. I look back and I look at how I, you know, the numbers I put up as a corner, how I dominated the position, you know, averaging five interceptions. And that's phenomenal, especially as a corner. You could see it as a safety. 21 interceptions as a corner?

Oh, back when it was three yards in a cloud of dust, per se, they just ran the ball majority time. And I look at that and I think, what was it about me? Well, it was my mindset. Coach Bryant told me I could play. And the way we were taught to play was with a spirit of excellence. You don't give up anything, man.

I mean, you don't give up any points. You know, that year, probably one of the greatest defenses that Alabama ever fielded. In all the years, they've had a football program because that team gave up less than a touchdown a game.

That 1979 year, they had five shutouts. So I was just taught and coached to play the game with a spirit of excellence. Really, the word is dominate. So I'm upset if a guy catches an out route on me. So that's how I was coached and I played in that manner.

I took that on, that philosophy. And after four years, I was an All-American and had tied the record in Interceptions regular season with 16. We won it my freshman year. That was Coach Bryant's last national championship.

1980, we had a great team, should have won it again. And we came up short. Just felt like some of the leadership, the guys, we had talent. But guys just really didn't have the character that the 79 team had.

That's the best way for me to put it. We had the ability, but we just didn't have the character. I did a blog back in 2012. A friend of mine that played with me, he was younger than me, he said, hey, I think 2012, Coach Bryant would have been 100 years old. So he said, hey, why don't you think about some of the things Coach Bryant did for you and write down and I'll talk about it.

And so when I look at it, I go all the way back to that first meeting, Jeremiah, you can play here. Coach Bryant took 10 minutes and he invented it. Coach Bryant took 10 minutes and he invested in me. From there, he influenced me. So when he said something, I believed that changed me, that impacted me. I saw that in my academics, my athletics, spiritually, all those areas I was involved in.

So that influence was there in all three areas. Coach Bryant come in, said, me and y'all need to go to church tomorrow. He didn't tell you where to go.

He didn't tell you to go. So he influenced me. From there, the inspiration came. How to live life. Coach Bryant lived life. You knew he was passionate about what he was doing.

My senior year, 82, this time of the year, we had spring ball. So one day we go down, we get our baskets, gonna change clothes, look at our itinerary. Any time the itinerary had S and S on it, you start praying because S and S meant stretch and scrimmage. That's all on the itinerary.

You praying because you knew, oh my goodness, there's no time limit on this thing. And Coach Bryant was going to have your body and your soul that day. So anyway, that day, so we changed, we and buses pull up.

Everybody was like, what are we getting on these buses for? We don't, we scrimmage right here at the complex. And we start asking the assistant coaches, they don't know.

What do you mean you don't know? You're an assistant coach? No, nobody knew but Coach Bryant and the bus drivers. No, the assistant coaches didn't know.

He took us over to Tuscaloosa County High School. We get off the bus as Coach Bryant walks up, calls everybody up and he says, first thing you say, you say all you coaches go sit up in the stands. He put all the coaches in the stands.

Coach Bryant coached the offense, the defense and the special teams by himself, made all the substitutions. You didn't come out of the scrimmage unless he called your name. We started at four o'clock. The first group didn't get through the 10 that night. Lights came on. So what that six hours later, literally we got, I got seven, eight games of scrimmage plays in, in that one scrimmage. Yeah, with that, I'm talking about some guys got that minute without, before they ever got a break out of the scrimmage.

And the next group got through about 11 that night. So for me, I call them in the fourth quarter of life, now in my 60s. I saw a man at 68, 69 years of age tell his staff, go sit up in the stands. I still have a passion and a drive and an enthusiasm for what God called me to do. And so that is imprinted in me, not just in my mind.

And so for you to know me as a player back then, as a person, I was known as a quiet leader. I just didn't talk much. And so right before the captains get ready to go out this game, I've got a strong prompting in my, in my gut to get up and say something, but I'm scared because I got to ask coach Brian. So I'm struggling with this thing, but the longer I waited, it got to where I'm like, man, I'm going to throw up. I don't get this out.

I don't even know what it is. It's totally impromptu. So I put my hand up real slow. Coach Brian, I said, coach, can I say something?

He, he had on his big old Parker hat come up over that on that jacket. He just nodded. And when he said, you know, not gave me permission, it just flowed. I started with thanking coach Brian. So coach, I just want to thank you for everything you've done for me. So, you know, I came here four years ago as an 18 year old boy, but tonight I'm going to leave as a 21 year old man.

I want to personally thank you for everything you've done for me. So coach, ain't no way we're going to lose this game tonight. So if I got to play this sucker by myself, man, we're going to win. And that thing was like, it like, it lit, it was a match. It lit my, it got our guys fired up. What I love about that when I look back is, you know, 20 some days later, coach Brian passes away. And I just believe the Lord prompted me that in front of my peers, I would tell my coach, thank you for what he'd done for me. Probably every player in there should have stood up that night and said, thank you, coach.

God just prompted me. And after the game, I was on the, standing up there on the stage where he was getting the, the trophy, Liberty Bow trophy. I was standing next to him, I was getting the MVP trophy and the announcer was just congratulating him on his career. And I was standing next to him and he said, oh, my career was, and he put his arm around me. It was great because of men like this. And that's how I'll always remember my lasting encounter with coach Brian. And we'd like to thank 1819 news for this story.

1819 is a multimedia company for the state of Alabama. Jeremiah Castile doing what almost anybody who played for Bear Bryant did, which is talk about how Bear turned him from a boy into a man. With high standards, primarily a spirit of excellence. And as he put it, he wanted to dominate the other team dominance. And that's how I always coached.

He said, and I played that way. And those words of encouragement, cause that's what great coaches will do. They'll hold you to standards.

They'll take you to the mats. There are those moments where they build you up. There are those moments where they get a vision for you that even you don't have. And this was perhaps Bear Bryant's greatest talent. You can tell that without Bear Bryant, without Jesus Christ, these were the two most important beings in his life. And Christ first, Bear Bryant, a close second, the story of Jeremiah Castile.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-06 04:30:24 / 2024-06-06 04:39:41 / 9

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