Sergio Castillo was mistaken for lunchroom worker after signing with the New York Jets

Photo courtesy: New York Jets

Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ placekicker Sergio Castillo had a whirlwind three-month stint with the New York Jets in 2020, which got off to a funny start the day he signed his contract.

Castillo, a first-generation American born just north of the Mexican border, said he felt right at home at the Jets facility because all the custodians and lunchroom staff were Latin American. He had a successful tryout on October 14, 2020 and signed his contract with the team before going to eat in the lunchroom.

One of the lunchroom staff members began chatting with Castillo and recognized his accent, prompting her to switch from English to Spanish.

“She did not mean this in the wrong way at all — she was my grandma’s age, a sweet lady. She asks me, ‘Hey, Sergio, when are you going to start working with us?’ And I’m like, ‘No, I’m on the team!'” said Castillo via videoconference.

“They thought I was going to be working the lunchroom or as a custodian, but like I said she did not mean it in the wrong way. After that they treated me like a king, like a son. They had my hot sauces ready for me and my girl, Adriana, while she was pregnant, so that was a very funny experience.”

Castillo made his debut with the Jets in Week 7 and connected on seven of his first nine field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder. He missed three kicks in a Week 14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks after which he was released by the team.

“That’s just the game that we play. Just like the highs come, you gotta roll with the punches when the bad things come. But I know my identity. My identity is not in football, for me it’s in God and it’s in family and as a father,” said Castillo.

“That was a key moment right there. I could have easily just fallen apart and not been there for my girl who was eight months pregnant at the time. For me it was like, ‘OK, I have this going on in my life right now where professionally it’s not going well, but I still have this huge part of my life, something I’ve been dreaming about, which is to raise a family.'”

Castillo described his opportunity with the Jets as coming completely out of the blue. He was running his gym in Amarillo, Texas when he got a call from his agent informing him that the team might fly him in for a tryout. He was on a plane five hours later from Lubbock, Texas — a two-hour drive from his gym — with a bag containing only two pairs of shorts, some underwear, and a pair cleats because he didn’t have time to do laundry.

The 30-year-old arrived to cool New Jersey temperatures and quickly realized that he’d forgotten to bring a sweater. He’d left Texas in such a hurry that he hadn’t even considered that the weather would be cooler in the northeastern United States.

Castillo said that he has matured as a player and a person since his first stint with the Blue Bombers in 2015-16. Now a father to a ten-month-old child, he said that having a family is “his biggest dream” because he didn’t grow up with a father.

It remains unclear who will be Winnipeg’s placekicker when they host the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday, but after making 91.1 percent of his field goals with B.C. in 2019 it’s probably fair to suggest that Castillo has the inside track to winning the job.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.