Joe Castiglione Jr. was two years old when his father selected Bob Stoops to become Oklahoma's new football coach on Dec. 1, 1998. Now Stoops has agreed to allow that same kid to join the Sooners as a walk-on player.
The son of OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione spent the previous two seasons as a student manager with the Sooners. Joe Jr. would hold up huge flashcards on the sideline during games. At practice, he assisted linebackers coach Tim Kish and defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Joe Jr. would attend meetings involving coaching activities and analyze film, and would chart opponent tendencies and what plays they would run according to down and distance and field position. He would also perform traditional managerial duties, and also served as a gofer for coaches and players.
Joe Jr. would perform these duties in addition to being a full-time student, and he still managed to carry a 3.5 grade point average. Each August, he logged an estimated 70-plus hours per week with school and football. During the season, that number would dip to 50-55 hours.
No stranger to long hours and hard work, Joe Jr. will now get to spend some time on the field. How much time? Probably not much, if any. But that's not the point here.
As you might expect given his father's vocation, Joe Jr. is no stranger to athletics. He played three years of football and four years of baseball at Mount St. Mary High School, a Catholic school in Oklahoma City. As a junior fullback, he rushed for 688 yards and five touchdowns on 123 carries, plus had 105 yards on seven receptions. That summer, Joe Jr. was contacted by Memphis, who was then coached by former OU quarterback Justin Fuente (now at Virginia Tech).
During his senior season, Joe Jr. had 870 rushing yards with nine touchdowns, 100-plus receiving yards with another touchdown and also had 60-plus tackles and a couple of sacks as a defensive end. However, interest from Memphis waned when the coach who was recruiting Joe Jr., defensive coordinator Barry Odom, returned to his alma mater of Missouri, where he is now head coach.
Joe Jr. took an official recruiting visit to Division II Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, but instead chose to attend college in his hometown and at his father's workplace. Joe Jr.'s graduating class at Mount St. Mary was 90 students and he decided it was time to think bigger. "I really wanted to go to a big college to get that atmosphere," he said.
"The entire staff, we love him. Our players really like him as a person and as someone who has contributed in a real positive way the last couple of years on the field in practice."
- Head Coach Bob Stoops
Joe Jr. wanted to return to the field, no matter how small his role, because he missed playing football. He told his father he intended to ask Bob Stoops if he could join the OU roster as a walk-on in the spring. "Time-wise, it's not that much different," Joe Jr. said of his new daily routine. "My dad took it really well, and I'm really appreciative of how he questioned me about the decision. He wanted to know my motives behind the choice."
Joe Sr. was no stranger to this process. He was a walk-on safety for one season at Maryland, then reconsidered and decided to help out with the school's athletics department. Upon graduation, Joe Sr. served at various athletics department levels at Rice, Georgetown and Missouri before coming to OU in April 1998. Since his arrival, he frequently has been honored as one of the country's premier athletics directors.
Asked if it feels like he's under a microscope being the AD's son, Joe Jr. said, "To an extent, I would say so, but I don't really feel any pressure about it. My dad's really good about letting me be me. I feel like I'm held to a higher standard now, in a way, because now I'm a football player and his son. I wouldn't say I feel pressure and I think that's a lot of credit to the people who are around me who in a good way don't hold that against me — my coaches, my colleagues and my teammates."
Joe Castiglione Jr. runs the gauntlet during a spring practice. He played three years of football and four years of baseball at Mount St. Mary High School, a Catholic school in Oklahoma City.
Shortly after the Sooners closed out last season with a 35-19 victory over Auburn at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Joe Jr. set up a meeting with Stoops to ask about becoming a walk-on.
Stoops granted the request and Joe Sr. was not involved. "He (Joe Jr.) has done all this on his own," Joe Sr. testified. "He's learned a lot (as a student manager). The coaches have treated him superbly, but he still had the juices for playing."
Coaches already deal with meddlesome parents who feel their child deserves more playing time, but imagine the awkwardness if a coach had to deal with his boss' kid.
"I don't really feel any pressure about it. My dad's really good about letting me be me. I feel like I'm held to a higher standard now, in a way, because now I'm a football player and his son."
- Joe Castiglione Jr.
When playfully asked if he would pressure Stoops into giving Joe Jr. some playing time, Joe Sr. signaled "stop" in the middle of the question by waving both hands in front of his face. "No, no," Joe Sr. said. "I'm just a supportive father with no other influence...Bob knows exactly how I feel. This is not one of those deals. He (Joe Jr.) is solely his own man."
Stoops chuckled at the thought of such heavy handedness coming from his athletics director. "Listen, I'll say this, young Joe is so well-liked. The entire staff, we love him," Stoops said. "And our players really like him as a person and as someone who has contributed in a real positive way the last couple of years on the field in practice. They like him and respect him, so he fits in really well. And it's natural. He has a natural way about him that everybody likes.
"He's done an awesome job. As a student, you're not required to be there all the time and we don't know his whole class schedule. So he could easily not be there as much as he is. But he's there all the time, even late at night. We'd be in there watching practice (film) and he'd be in there. He's on top of it. He's always there, and he didn't have to be as a student (manager)."
Stoops paused as he recalled one late-night film session.
"I caught him nodding off," Stoops said with a smile. "I say that kiddingly because that only happened once, but I had to throw that out there. We teased him one time we caught him, but that tells you his commitment. He was doing all he could to stay involved."
Joe Sr. quickly defended his son on the incident and said, "Hey, he had two big tests that day. Yeah, I heard about that one."
Joe Jr. pleaded guilty. "Oh, yeah. I remember that," he said. "After practice, you shower and you go into a room for film. The lights go out and it gets a little tiring — a mental kind of tiring, not physical."
Joe Castiglione Jr. goes through drills during spring practice. Photo Gallery
In high school, Joe Jr. was listed at 6-foot, 195 pounds. On OU's initial 2017 spring roster, he is listed as a 5-foot-10, 179-pound redshirt sophomore. An update: Joe Jr. said he stands 5-foot-10½, weighs 188 pounds and eventually hopes to hold steady at around 205 pounds.
Stoops allowed Joe Jr. to pick his position. Rather than choosing to be a kicker, punter, wideout or defensive back in accordance to his size, he chose fullback.
Until that extra weight comes and in an effort to better preserve an undersized Joe Jr., coaches moved him to tailback for the team's first spring practice, during which Joe Jr. dashed up the middle untouched in his lone rushing attempt.
Having not played the last two seasons, Joe Jr. has returned to a regimented workout under the watchful eye of taskmaster Jerry Schmidt, the team's director of sports enhancement. "More than anything, I just want to get acclimated to playing football again," Joe Jr. said.
In high school, Joe Jr. ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds and said he is confident he someday will be able to get that number down to 4.75, which is a solid clocking for a fullback. Joe Jr. said he can bench press 235 pounds four times and squat 365 pounds. "They're not terrible numbers," he said.
Suffice to say, he doesn't figure to challenge 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior Dimitri Flowers for the starting fullback spot. "Uh...no. Not quite," Joe Jr. said, forcing a chuckle. "Not from a 5-foot-10 guy walking off the street."
Perhaps Joe Jr.'s teammates might kiddingly nickname him "Rudy" after Notre Dame walk-on Daniel Ruettiger, who was portrayed in the 1993 movie of the same name.
Joe Jr. strives for more playing time than Rudy, however. "I would really like to get on a special team, sooner or later," Joe Jr. said. "Kickoff, kickoff return, punt coverage, punt return...I'm honestly open to anything. Just something to get me on the field."
When Joe Jr. once again retires as a football player and earns his degree in sports management, he will then weigh his career options."Athletics administration definitely is still in play," Joe Jr. said. "It'll definitely be something in college athletics. When I did defense as a student (manager), I really started thinking about becoming a graduate assistant after my time in college and go into college coaching. I'm really keeping an open mind."