The roots of Juan Castillo intersect back to the plains of Texas where he began playing and coaching football.
And small-school ties have shaped the career of the Ravens' run-game coordinator.
Although Castillo, as the Philadelphia Eagles' longtime offensive line coach, worked with several Pro Bowl blockers -- Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberrry, Jon Runyan, Jason Peters and Shawn Andrews -- he also had a hand in recruiting and developing several undrafted free agent offensive linemen that became starters. That includes Hank Fraley from Robert Morris and Jamaal Jackson out of Delaware State.
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As a former linebacker at Texas A&I, which is now called Texas A&M Kingsville, and in the USFL with the San Antonio Gunslingers, the Port Isabel, Texas native hasn't forgotten where he came from.
"I played at Texas A&I University, and I coached at Texas A&I, which is a Division II school," said Castillo, who's been coaching for three decades. "And, really, I never coached at a big school. I went from Division II to the NFL, kind of like [sixth-round offensive lineman] Ryan [Jensen, Colorado State-Pueblo]. We have something in common. I think throughout my years, the biggest thing that I enjoyed is coming from a Division II school is that at our place what we learned is that it didn’t matter who you got.
"You developed whatever you got, because you didn’t have that many players. I really enjoyed developing players, and I think that’s something that throughout my career at Philadelphia is something that I’ve done, especially college free agents.”
Castillo, 53, was initially hired as a consultant prior to the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers before assuming his run-game coordinator position.
In that capacity, Castillo works closely with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell and offensive line coach Andy Moeller. Castillo provides significant input into the Ravens' offensive schemes and has a lot of influence at evaluating offensive line prospects. That includes working out Jensen privately and recommending him prior to the NFL draft.
“Really, that’s what the offensive line coaches really do," Castillo said when asked about his role working with Caldwell. "Really throughout the league, as you put the run game together, you look at the fronts, and then really the protection part of it, too. You look at the blitzes. You put them together, and then you present them to the staff, present them to Coach Caldwell. Basically, that’s what I’m going to do.”
As far as working in tandem with Moeller, Caldwell said: "What we will do is we will work together with that part. Andy will be helping me, too, with the run game and the protections.”
Castillo was fired last season by former Eagles coach Andy Reid after an ill-fated turn as the defensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
Now Castillo is back in a familiar offensive role after spending his first 16 NFL seasons coaching in Philadelphia primarily as the Eagles' offensive line following stints as a tight ends coach and offensive assistant.
"Juan is a pretty good coach," Ravens left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "He focuses on our technique, and that’s something that I kind of get away from sometimes. So right now is a great time for us to work on our technique and me in pass protection, sitting straight back. So, Juan’s been a great help.”
For Castillo, working in Baltimore feels like old times.
He's been reunited with Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who coached with him on the Eagles' staff dating back to the Ray Rhodes era before working for Reid, and senior defensive assistant Steve Spagnuolo, a former Philadelphia linebackers coach.
“I told them when we were walking out when they were first together and I saw them walking together, I thought I was back in Philly,' Castillo said. "It’s nice. John and I worked together for 10 years, and Steve and I also. It’s nice to be around people that you know are quality people that work hard and are good people.”