From humble football start, Dover’s Castro now a Gold All-Star

John Rodel Castro

NEWARK — John Rodel Castro probably shouldn’t be on a football field.

The recent Dover High grad stands only 5-foot-5, 160 pounds.

And, with his family moving to Delaware from the Philippines when he was 9, he grew up not knowing anything about the sport.

It’s not really surprising then that, when Castro first tried out for the Central Middle School team in seventh grade, he was cut.

“I didn’t know anything,” he says with a smile. “I didn’t know what a corner was, I didn’t know what a linebacker was. … It just hurt. After I got cut, I saw people walking around with a jersey, it just hurt.

“I was like, I’ve got to do it again. I can’t give up on myself. I’m no quitter. I’m the type of guy that, if I start something, I finish it.”

With all that in mind, it’s a pretty remarkable story that this week Castro is lining up with the stop senior football players in the state.

He’ll be Dover’s representative in the 62nd annual Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game, slated for Saturday at 6 p.m. in Delaware Stadium. Run by the DFRC, the event has raised over $6 million for Delaware programs that benefit individuals with intellectual disABILITIES.

John Rodel Castro had over 1,000 yards in all-purpose yards for the Senators as a senior. (Delaware State News file photo)

Castro realizes he’s come a long way from his humble beginnings in the sport.

“People who started over me back then (in middle school), they wanted to be here,” he said. “I’m pretty blessed to be in this spot right now.”

What Castro lacks in physical size, he makes up for with a lot of speed. He finished third in the Division I state 100-meter dash this spring in a time of 11.12 seconds.

That speed makes Castro a dangerous player with the ball in his hands. He totalled over 1,000 yards in all-purpose yards for the Senators as a senior.

But all that speed wouldn’t matter much in football if Castro wasn’t also a really determined kid. Despite his size, he also played free safety for Dover — a position he expects to play in the fall at Wesley College.

First-year coach Rudy Simonetti said Castro impressed him with the way he studied film during the season.

“It’s definitely something he wants to work at and get better than what he already is,” said Simonetti. “When I talked to opposing coaches, they always asked about him. There’s a respect factor. When you played us last year, Jon was probably a focal point in game planning.

“I don’t judge kids by their size. I judge them by their hard work, their speed and their physicality. That equals a football player to me. That’s John Castro.”

Castro, a team captain for Dover last fall, is used to things not coming easily.

When he first moved from the Philippines, it was just him, his father and his little brother. It took another five years for Castro’s mother and younger sister to make it to the U.S.

“Basically my dad was working all day, non-stop,” said Castro. “I grew up, for part of my life, not having my little sister and my mom around. I thought sports was the perfect thing to kill some time and not to be alone.”

Playing football also helped him learn English, said Castro.

When his family was finally reunited during his sophomore year at Dover, Castro said “it was a beautiful moment.”

“I was so happy,” he said. “Ever since then, it’s like my life has been better and better.”

Castro said his mom actually isn’t a big fan of watching him play football.

“My mom doesn’t like it,” he said. “I’m the smallest one on the field. She still goes to the games but she gets nervous.”

Small or not, though, Castro has proven he belongs on the field.

Extra points

Both teams are scheduled to hold scrimmages at 5 p.m. on Thursday. The Gold’s scrimmage will be at Milford High with the Blue’s at Tower Hill. … The Gold had two last-minute replacements to its roster on Sunday. Smyrna’s Jake Soroko and Caesar Rodney’s Kenneth Shahan are now on the Gold team. … DFRC executive director Tony Glenn said he’s been told that the Blue-Gold game is now the oldest high school football all-star contest in the country.

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