I had the pleasure of speaking with linebacker Jonathan Casillas today as he gets ready to begin his first season with the Buccaneers after playing in New Orleans for the first few years of his career.
Of course the highlight of Jonathan’s career was recovering the opening second half onside kick that the Saints converted during their Super Bowl XLIV win over Peyton Manning and the Colts.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far in your career?
Not only is the NFL a business, you know very cut throat. I’m a business as a player, as an individual. I’m my own business If I’m not on top of my business every day, whatever I do…my business will fail. My body will fail physically. If I’m not on top of it mentally in the classroom learning the plays. Also emotionally as well. Just trying to stay above the curve. You know that the league is a business and it might not go your way sometimes, people will get cut. You just got to keep pushing forward and take care of your business to the best of your ability. Just take care of your business as if it’s a prized entity and not just something that you take lightly.
Being from New Jersey, were you recruited by Greg Schiano coming out of high school?
Yeah he did. It’s pretty ironic. I’ve known Schiano since I was 18 and you know now that I’m 25. It’s a cool little story.
“Coming out of college before Schiano was there (Tampa Bay), Rahim Morris was the head coach. They were really heavy on me because I went undrafted. It ended up being between New Orleans and Tampa and I ended up picking New Orleans of course and won a Super Bowl my first year. You know I don’t regret the decision, it’s just funny how I ended up back in Tampa with the guy that recruited me out of high school and the team that wanted me when I came out of college. It’s a funny little story and I’m happy to be where I’m at now. I’m happy to be a Buccaneer.”
How has your transition gone so far coming from New Orleans to Tampa Bay?
“It’s been going well. I was familiar with the locker room given that we played Tampa two times a year. It’s a little ironic being in the locker room now. Been battling these guys like Josh Freeman, you know Davin Joseph, last year Doug Martin being a rookie and now I’m in the locker room with them and we’re talking about beating my old team. Now we’re talking about how we’re going to stop Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. It’s a little weird, but at the same time it’s very special. It’s special that I get to play against my old team and help out a team that’s kind of on the fringe of being really good. A playoff caliber team with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. I’m just excited to be able to contribute.
How much different is the Bucs defense compared to the Saints defense?
It’s actually not terribly different than Spagnuolo’s defense. It has the same approach. It’s something that I like. Like I said it’s similar to what Spagnuolo was doing in the terms of scheme. I like the defense a lot. It allows guys like myself to run around and hit and that’s what I really like to do.
What are your goals for the upcoming season?
Personally I want to be able to start of course. I want to be able to fully contribute this year. Stay injury free as much as I can. And as a team I want to get another ring. Everybody wants that. That’s the ultimate goal.
What do you think you need to do in training camp to show the coaches that you’re worthy of being a starter this season?
I just have to play my football. Be able to play the way I play ball. I’m learning the defense that we’re running. Once I’ll be able to fit into the scheme of things and basically let my talents show then I’ll be fine. I think everything will take care of itself. If I’m not a full-time starter like I want to be, then I’ll be a solid contributor.
In a tough division like the NFC South, what do you think the Bucs need to do to get into the playoffs?
Basically you have to win the games that you lose. Every year you have a group of teams who people say, well they weren’t supposed to win that game. And you have a group of teams that they say, you were supposed to win that game. And you want to be able to get over that hump because Tampa Bay was one of those teams last year who were supposed to win that game. We have to be able to get over the hump.
When I was in New Orleans my rookie year, the Super Bowl year we won a lot of games that maybe shouldnt have won. Every year the teams that are special they face some type of adversity during the game or during the season and they respond to it. And that’s what we gotta do.
You can follow Jonathan on the following social media platforms.
Twitter and Mobli: @Jcasillas52
Thanks to Jonathan as well as Brittany Gilman of BG Sports for their assistance.