Former Crimson Tide football star Jeremiah Castille felt he was destined to play for the Univerity of Alabama from a young age. Before his success in the NFL, he was recruited to play college ball under Paul "Bear" Bryant during the legendary coach's final years.

On a recent episode of "1819 News: The Podcast," Castille told of how he overcame his rough upbringing, found Christ during a summer revival as a kid and was inspired by Bryant to succeed both on and off the field.

"When God saved me, he gave me a vision for my life, that in the Castille house, things could be different and that he could use my life, he could use me," he said. "So, God gave me a vision to play football."

He was recruited to Alabama by coach Jeff Rousey in the fall of 1978. He said he later learned that Coach Bryant was unsure about him as a player due to his size.

"I was 5'9", 155 pounds, so there weren't a bunch of people knocking on the door," Castille said.

Castille was called to Bryant's office during the second week of his first training camp. Worried that he was in trouble, Castille tried to think of what he might have done wrong. But his meeting with the coach went much better than expected.

"The first words Coach Bryant said to me were, 'You can play here at the University of Alabama,'" Castille recounted. I'm thinking, 'Yeah, when my turn comes. ' His next words were, 'You can play this year.'… The greatest words that had ever been spoken to me were that God loved me. Those were the next greatest words—the power of encouragement. I tell people I walked in 5'9" and walked out 6'9".

Castille went on to help his team win the national championship his freshman year, record a college career total of 16 interceptions — more if you count bowl games — and led his team to victory in Bryant's final game at the Liberty Bowl in 1982.

Castille Alabama News
Denver Broncos Jeremiah Castille waves his arm as he carries the ball from the field, Jan. 17, 1988 in Denver near the end of the AFC Championship game with the Cleveland Browns. With just over a minute to play, Castille stripped the ball from Cleveland's Earnest Byner to save the game. Broncos won 38-33. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

"I go all the way back to that first meeting, 'Jeremiah, you can play here.' Coach Bryant took 10 minutes, and he invested in me," Castille said. "From there, he influenced me, so when he said something, I believed it. It influenced me. From there, that changed me, that impacted me. I saw that in my academics, my athletics, spiritually, all those areas… From there, inspiration came, how to live life. Coach Byrant, you knew he was passionate about what he was doing."

Castille recounted one of his last interactions with Coach Bryant after beating Illinois 21-15 at the Liberty Bowl.

Before the game, Castille said God compelled him to speak to the team about giving their all to win the game, but he also made sure to thank Bryant for what he had done for him as a coach over the last four years.

"After the game, I was standing up there on the stage where he was getting the Liberty Bowl trophy. I was standing next to him; I was getting the MVP trophy. The announcer was just congratulating him on his career and I was standing next to him and he said, 'My career' — and he put his arm around me — 'was great because of men like this.' And that's how I'll always remember my last encounter with Coach Bryant as a player."

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