South Tahoe grad McCallan Castles looking forward to second season at Cal
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A big, infectious grin took over McCallan Castles’ face as he recalled his first collegiate reception.
The South Tahoe 2018 graduate and Cal freshman brimmed with excitement while reliving his 15-yard grab in the Golden Bears final football game of the season against TCU in the Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix.
“It was one of those experiences where it’s so surreal that it finally happened that I don’t remember any of it because I was so excited,” Castles told the Tribune. “When I came off the field my teammates were super supportive, it was so great.”
Castles, a high-flying windmill dunking basketball player along with being an All-World football star for the Vikings, capped off his first season at Cal and has high expectations leading into next year.
Cal featured eight tight ends on its roster this past season and four were seniors. The group combined to make 25 receptions and one touchdown.
Castles, a true freshman, was the only non-senior to haul in a reception. He will be the team’s top returner at the position when spring practice begins Feb. 25.
Castles played in less than four games this season and will return next year as a redshirt freshman.
“After playing in the bowl game and getting a catch, there’s some high expectations going into next year,” Castles said. “I hope to get a lot of playing time, but it’s progressions. I just want to keep getting better as we go, work hard and be successful. I’ve gotta earn it.”
Castles said he was told early on by the coaching staff that he needed to show he was the “real deal” in practice. He was placed on the scout team and would run other team’s plays against the Golden Bear defense.
He worked so hard he was named Offensive Scout Player of the Year.
“I was on the scout team for the majority and I ran every other Pac-12 offense,” Castles said. “You just have to accept that you are trying to get the other guys better. And I think it helped because I was playing against one of the top defenses in the Pac-12, so honestly it was great to play on the scout team.”
Castles said he was welcomed into the team with open arms and that he has received nothing but support from the coaching staff and his teammates, especially in his position group.
He said the other tight ends all helped him and wanted to see him succeed.
“You go in there thinking that all these older guys are not going to like you because you’re a freshman coming in trying to play,” Castles said. “But everybody is super helpful. It’s like the greatest team atmosphere I’ve ever seen. Everybody wants to see everybody succeed because it’s a team. The age gap was there, everybody was four years older in the tight ends room, but they all wanted to see me do good. It was like having a bunch of older brothers.”
Castles said the biggest adjustment from high school was making the leap to college-level physicality. Everybody is a lot faster, a lot stronger and whole lot more motivated.
His first semester was a “grind,” but said he receives lots of help balancing academics with athletics. He lives in a dorm with other student-athletes.
“You get a lot of help academically,” Castles said. “Football is already planned out, you already know the set workout times. You have academic advisers that are super helpful that help us pick our classes and have a schedule that’s manageable with practice. They say after you get through the first semester it’s smooth sailing.”
He said living in Berkeley has been a bit of culture shock, but a good experience that he wouldn’t trade.
Since starting school in June 2018, Castles has been back to South Lake Tahoe just three times and has quickly learned to appreciate time with family and friends.
He made it back during a bye week and watched the young Vikings football team suffer through a “rough one” against Fallon. And he came back recently and has taken in some Vikings basketball games.
“Coming back, everybody’s so supportive, they all want to know how everything is going,” Castles said. “This community is always behind people that do things like this. It’s so nice to be back.”