South Tahoe senior Castles accepts full ride to Cal | TahoeDailyTribune.com

South Tahoe senior Castles accepts full ride to Cal

McCallan Castles was tired of getting buried in mail so he stopped opening a lot of it. It was all good news, but there was just so much.

His father, Tom, was certainly over the nightly phone calls from coaches and the piles of letters he and his wife Alison hauled out of their mailbox each week.

That all may be over now after the South Tahoe High School senior signed his National Letter of Intent Wednesday, Dec. 20, to attend and play football for the University of California, Berkeley. He inked his signature in front of family, friends and coaches in the strength and conditioning room at the high school and is receiving a full-ride scholarship that covers tuition, fees, room and board, books — everything.

"I get a whole bunch of free education just because I can play football, it's great," Castles said. "It's the biggest relief possible getting this done. It's great to have everything come together and finally pay off. I'm so thankful to everybody that has helped me get to this place. The hours and everything that everybody has ever done for me led up to this moment."

As soon as the autograph dried on his NLI, it was faxed to Cal head coach Justin Wilcox, who just finished his first season. And Wilcox is excited for what he thinks Castles can bring to the Golden Bears next season and beyond.

"He's a really talented athlete, have you watched him play basketball?" Wilcox said during his press conference announcing his 18-player class. "This guy is like a windmill dunker, shooting 3s, yeah, he can play hoops. He's a competitive guy, a really natural pass catcher. At 6-5, 235, he's still got a lot of room to grow and he's really agile. He's still gotta develop physically, but the way he can catch the ball, what he can do with it after he catches it and the range … it's third and seven and you need a completion for a first down, you can throw it out here and he can go catch it. Or you get down in the red zone you could put it up near the goal posts and he'll go and catch it. I'm really excited about McCallan."

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Castles, a four-star ESPN recruit, had about 20 colleges wanting him. His parents have "boxes" of letters, offers and correspondence with colleges from across the nation, but mostly on the west coast.

Castles went on visits to Duke, Colorado and Utah and had several coaches come to South Lake Tahoe to vie for his signature.

"It's crazy to think they come to you," Castles said.

But when he visited the Cal campus in the Bay Area he knew where he was going to pursue further education. Wilcox visited with Castles and his family at their Tahoe home about a week ago and sealed the deal.

"The location, tradition and education is great," said Castles, who verbally committed in May and was recently concerned he made the right decision. "All those other schools are great, and I got a little worried a couple of weeks ago when Oregon offered coach Wilcox the job, but as soon as he turned that down, I knew I made the right choice. He's like talking to any other person. You'd never think he's the head coach of Cal the way he carries himself but he cares more about how I am as a person and how I want my education to be."

South Tahoe head football coach Louis Franklin knows all too well what Cal is getting. The Vikings boss has seen Castles make amazing catches, score a bunch of touchdowns and deliver helmet-rattling hits. He's also seen how he handles himself off the gridiron.

"I think this is awesome for McCallan and the community," Franklin said after Castles signed his letter. "The kids, like my son, looks up to McCallan. My son is 10 so he's seen him being a positive member of society and volunteering in the community. He knows he has to do well in school and on the field. So I think for our small community it's cool for a lot of kids. They see this and think it's a possibility, just work hard, don't skip any steps and be a good all-around human being in all phases. And for me selfishly, I'm gonna miss him on the football field and when he comes in at lunch and hangs out with the kids in the special ed class with me. Not a lot of kids do that and the kids in class are sure going to miss him too."

Before his breakout junior season, Castles wasn't gaining much attention where he lived in Colorado mainly because they lived in "the sticks."

After McCallan's older brother graduated high school in Colorado and went off to college, his parents asked their youngest son where he wanted to go to school.

Thomas wanted to head back to the Bay Area where he and Alison are originally from to have him play at traditional powerhouse De La Salle in Concord. But McCallan looked around and wanted to come to South Lake Tahoe, where they used to live and where he was born in 1999 at Barton.

"We let him pick and we did some research," said Thomas, who sent videos to all the colleges his son was interested in to stir interest. "They (South Tahoe) were a decent team with a good quarterback and he said that's where I want to be. But it is a huge relief emotionally and financially. I don't have to drive him around anymore, they pay for everything from now on, it's great. And the best part is we get to sit back and watch him and enjoy ourselves from now on. Now for him, it's a job and he better be ready to work."