Editor’s note: This marks the 30th anniversary of USA TODAY recognizing the nation’s top high school athletes. As we prepare to unveil the 2012 American Family Insurance ALL-USA Football Team at the end of the season, we’ll dig into the archives and check in with ALL-USA honorees from the past three decades. This week’s player is Simeon Castille. He was an All-USA defensive player in 2003 while at Briarwood Christian (Birmingham, Ala.).
As hard as it was for Simeon Castille to get to the NFL, he’s finding it just as difficult to stay there.
Castille was a first-team American Family Insurance ALL-USA defensive back at Briarwood Christian (Birmingham, Ala.), leading the team to the 2003 state championship while sharing nine interceptions. Like his older brother Tim and his father Jeremiah, he signed with Alabama.
Blessed with the advice of a father who played for the legendary Bear Bryant followed by six years in the NFL, Castille became an All-SEC first team cornerback at Alabama his junior year.
“Having my dad play in the NFL was a huge advantage for me,” Castille said. “He taught me everything I know at the position. The training he used to put me and my brother through definitely had me ready mentally as well as physically.”
Despite playing well for one of the top teams in the SEC, Castille wasn’t drafted in 2008. Undeterred, he became the only undrafted free agent to make the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster that summer.
“The lord just blessed me at my rookie training camp with the Bengals,” Castille said. “It was one of the hardest football experiences I went through, going from being at the top of the totem pole to being undrafted at the bottom. It was a humbling experience but it also made me hungrier.”
He played in seven games for the Bengals but was cut the following training camp.
“I went from playing the week before and then the next week, having them say, ‘Simeon, we need to see you in the office. We need to let you go.’ I don’t know if anything can prepare your mind to handle that situation.”
Since then, it’s been a bumpy, now-he’s-in, now-he’s-not, ride for Castille.
He was signed in 2009 by the San Diego Chargers and not long after, was put on the team’s practice squad. In October of that season, just three days after he was promoted from the practice squad, he was waived when Antonio Cromartie’s ankle injury wasn’t as bad as first thought.
To stay in shape for another potential shot at the NFL, he played with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2010 and was the team’s second-leading tackler before signing again with the Chargers’ practice squad in December.
Last summer, he was playing well in training camp with the Chargers before injuring his hamstring and being cut again.
Last season was his first full one out of the NFL. He played in the fall for the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers, then for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League in the spring, leading the Predators in tackles and interceptions.
He isn’t giving up on the NFL, but since he will be 28 in a few months, realizes his window of opportunity is closing.
“I’ve been thinking about it obviously more and more now,” Castille said. “When I first got cut, I had my mind set on getting back to the NFL. Now, I haven’t been on an NFL team in a year. I have definitely started thinking about how I have to start preparing for life after football. I love football and it has obviously been a big part of my life the last few years, but I’m more than a football player.”
His youngest brother Caleb is a sophomore defensive back at Alabama this season while his brother Tim, who also played briefly in the NFL, is a graduate assistant with the Tide. Castille isn’t sure he would follow his brother into coaching.
“I know I don’t want to get into coaching unless it is the high school level,” Castille said. “I know how much time those coaches in college and the NFL put in. A lot of them don’t have a real family life.”
Follow Jim Halley on Twitter @jimhalley.