Pros aren't likely to miss on Castonzo
With the 25th pick in the 2005 all-area football draft, the Daily Herald selects ... Anthony Castonzo.
One problem: Back then, our Lake County all-area football team consisted of 24 players.
Oh, what a painful mess it was -- and I authored it.
Contrary to what some might think, choosing all-area teams is about fun as eating vegetables unsalted. But, hey, you got to do it. And, actually, it can be satisfying. For as many kids (parents) who you'll thrill, there are always dozens (parents) you'll disappoint. There is no computer program or ironclad formula to picking all-area teams. You basically want to reward the best teams, while making sure you pick the best players based on your own evaluations and, more importantly, the input of the player's head coach. The coaches see the players every day, after all, and in some cases know the kid maybe better than those closest to him.
In 2005, Lake Zurich coach Mike DiMatteo nominated for our all-area football team rock-solid linebacker Jeff Ross and Castonzo, who was one of the few players to play both offense and defense for the Bears that season. LZ was banged up that year but made the playoffs with 5 wins and lost to Prospect in the first round.
I told DiMatteo we'd probably get both players on. He then told Ross and Castonzo they made all-area. A couple of days later, Patricia Babcock McGraw and I started picking the team. I felt pretty confident about getting both Ross and Castonzo on.
Then Stevenson coach Bill Mitz dropped 10 nominees in our lap. I think I chipped a tooth when my jaw hit the ground.
Make no mistake about it, Stevenson was our best Lake County football team in 2005. The Patriots finished the regular season 9-0, pitching 4 shutouts. But 10 all-area nominees? I figured we'd put about 6 Patriots on.
We settled on eight, which was unprecedented for us. All eight, including honorary captain Mike Morrissey, were legitimate selections. It was just a lot of kids from one team.
It meant a couple of players would get bumped. Trish and I agonized over it for what seemed like a half-hour.
We ended up dropping Castonzo.
I think we drew straws, threw darts or did rock-paper-scissors. Castonzo surely would be "Rock."
We dropped Castonzo not because he wasn't all-area material, but picking offensive linemen is difficult. Unless the kid is all-state, they can be a tough sell. (Confession: Sports writers don't break down game film). Unlike with running backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers and defensive players, there are no obvious stats for O-linemen.
Meanwhile, Lake Zurich's big likable kid was excited about his selection.
Then I had to break the news to DiMatteo. I accepted full accountability for the miscommunication. DiMatteo was naturally disappointed, but cool about it.
Bill Castonzo, Anthony's proud papa, wasn't quite so understanding. He had every right to be angry.
Like a few thousand parents every year, Bill Castonzo thought his kid was being slighted, that he wasn't being given enough credit. He thought recruiters were missing the boat, too, by not recruiting his son who had cruiseliner-big potential.
Turns out, he was right.
So we did the only right thing: We expanded our all-area to 25 players, adding Castonzo.
As Anthony grew physically and into an elite college football player who tonight will be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft -- multiple mocks having him going 19th to the New York Giants -- Bill Castonzo would always email the media to let us know about Anthony's latest accomplishment. The hardworking kid was racking up accolades rapidly, both for his football and academics.
Unrecruited by Division I schools, he went to an East Coast prep school and a year later earned a scholarship to Boston College, where he became a man and a dominant offensive linemen.
He was 6-7 and 230 pounds his senior football season at Lake Zurich. Today, he's listed at 6-7 and 310 pounds, and was called the most versatile O-lineman at the Senior Bowl.
Here's the best thing about Anthony Castonzo -- better than him being a Rhodes scholar nominee: He's a good guy.
His work ethic is unmatched.
He's got a sense of humor.
He's someone who will make not just his parents Bill and Shari proud but the entire village of Lake Zurich, too.
People from Lake Zurich to Boston College will cheer.
He deserves it.
Think he'd slip to the 25th pick?