Juan Castillo, first impressions

Juan Castillo has coached with Andy Reid since 1998, but now has a new title in the organization. (Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer)

The date was April 18, 1998. That is was a long time ago goes without saying. But it is the first time I remember Juan Castillo speaking.

He had been on Ray Rhodes' staff for a couple of years in an entry-level position, learning the business of NFL coaching. Now he was the offensive line coach in what pretty much everyone knew was going to be Rhodes' final season as the Eagles' head coach. This particular day was draft day. It was the day the Eagles picked Tra Thomas.

As part of the media sales job, reporters were brought into one of the players' meeting rooms at the Vet, those old, cramped, damp places with the stained ceiling tiles and the ever-present hint of rodents watching your ever move. There, Castillo popped in a videotape of Thomas and commenced coaching.

I can't tell you exactly what he said, but the memory is full of "whams" and "bams" and whatnot as Castillo grew more and more excited about the player his team had just drafted. His enthusiasm impressed everybody that day. It was really kind of infectious, even given the hard-bitten crew to whom Castillo was preaching.

So much has happened since then, obviously -- topped off Wednseday by Castillo's unlikely elevation to defensive coordinator. Since Andy Reid doesn't allow reporters to talk to his position coaches, most of our communication with Castillo over the years has been limited to nods of hello and observations of how hard he took the losses. Sometimes he would be sitting in the lockerroom -- especially on the road -- and just staring kind of forlornly into the distance.

But after the Wednesday press conference was over, Castillo was talking to a circle of reporters outside the auditorium at the NovaCare Complex. This whole thing really is a bolt from the blue, and I have no earthly idea how it is going to work out. I still don't understand why they took this chance.

But standing there, listening to Castillo, there were no "whams" or "bams" but the same enthusiasm for the task ahead was plain.

After all of these years, that part has not changed.