Former Badgers LB Jonathan Casillas’ favorite football memories
With his football career behind him, we asked Jonathan Casillas to recount his favorite memories while playing college and in the NFL.
Casillas was a three-year starter for Wisconsin at outside linebacker, but it was a moment from his freshman year which stood out. He’d go on to play 102 games in the NFL for the Saints, Patriots and Giants, winning Super Bowls with New Orleans in the 2009 season and with New England in the 2014 season.
“There’s so many in college. I had a great time at the University of Wisconsin. I tell you what, the reaction and the response for the block against Minnesota in 2005, my freshman year. I’ve never seen or felt anything like that.
“I was 18 years old, you know what I mean, I was very young and made a historical play for the Badgers. We were at the old Ogg Hall across the street from the old Surf, right next to the Kohl Center. It was a 13-floor building, there was like twin towers that faced each other, as football players we put our jerseys in the window so you could see where our rooms are at. My room was on the 10th floor, so whatever. When I got back from the game from Minnesota, I basically became a household name around Madison, I get back to my dorm and I look across and they have a big banner on the side of the building that says ‘We love you number 46.’
“That was like, holy crap, that’s crazy. That was like the eye-opener. This is college football, this is what I wanted to do.
“Of course, everybody that plays ball has aspirations to play in the NFL, so I was able to do the ultimate. I’ve been to the top of the mountain — twice. Now those experience are unbelievable.
“Winning the Super Bowl … my second time around I was playing for New England. I got traded in 2014 from Tampa Bay to New England. Tampa Bay was the worst team in the league, like literally. They picked first, they got Jameis Winston the next year. And New England was the best, they won the Super Bowl; they picked 32nd. I’m not just saying it — I literally went from worst to first.
“I got to this New England team and they knew me as a special teams guy, really good linebacker, like I guess they kind of knew who I was, some of the guys I could tell. And I played against Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] and (Brandon) Bolden and some of these guys throughout the roster, whether it be offense vs. defense or special teams. I feel like I was very well respected when I go there, which you could expect from the Patriots. They know who they’re bringing in to their organization.
“But Gronkowski asked me, when we were on our run, maybe sometime towards the end of the season or in the playoffs … Gronkowski had never actually won a Super Bowl at this point. I think they lost one or two at this point. He’s like, ‘Hey man, what does it feel like to win a Super Bowl?’ It was a crazy question coming from Gronk. I had to sit down for a second. I was like, ‘You know what, Gronk, for what you’ve created — you’re Gronkowski, you’re Gronk — you’ve done a lot for yourself, for the franchise. You created you as a business; you’ve created such a successful business. Winning a Super Bowl will be the closest thing to being a god as you can be. You will be godly like.’
“I hope you remember what kind of rampage Gronk went on after winning his first Super Bowl. He was hosting parties, he was twerking on stage, he had a Gronk bus — he was off the chain from that Super Bowl. And you know what? No one will say anything to you. Not saying you could do whatever you want, but some guys are like hey man he just won a Super Bowl, so if he wants to twerk on stage, go ahead. It is what it is.
“OK, one more thing because you got me thinking down memory road. After the Super Bowl in New Orleans my rookie year. We get our rings … I could sit here talking for another hour about the ring ceremonies alone, for the both of them. But for the one in New Orleans, we got our rings and I was with a friend of mine, Anthony Waters, and we decided to drive towards Bourbon Street.
“When we got over that way we decided to drive up Bourbon Street. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New Orleans before, but you can’t drive on Bourbon Street. They actually have barricades that prevent you from doing so. We started out doing it and as we were going and cop saw us and he was like, ‘What are you doing? Pull the hell over.’ We got our music playing all loud and when you go up the first street of Bourbon off of Poydras you run into I think Iberville, if I’m not mistaken, and you have to make a right-hand turn. … We had to turn off, but what we told somebody was to go move the barricades. We were driving up pumping our music load and had our hands out the window with our rings out and there’s like a mob around us going up Bourbon Street.
“So fast-forward to our interaction with these cops, they’re walking up the street and they’re using very explicit language, like ‘What the f are you doing, turn that damn music off.’ And as soon as the first guy comes up to the window, I started to speak and I showed him my ring and he was like, ‘Oh, Jimmy look! They got their rings!’ And he called partner up and we took pictures with the cops (laughs) and he was like ‘Jimmy man, move the barricades!’ (laughs) So now we got cop clearance and we’re driving up Bourbon Street and people are moving barricades. And it’s Bourbon Street. There’s a lot of people out. But we’re not driving fast. We’re driving like a couple miles an hour — we want people to see our rings, you know. And we got a mob going. New Orleans people. Grateful people. People that deserved that. They deserved that Super Bowl for everything they’ve been through. So we were there showing them what they deserve. That was a crazy experience.
“Then the next day, we were having this brief team meeting, I don’t remember exactly what it was, but we had a conversation and Drew Brees said he was actually on Bourbon Street and saw us. He said the only reason he was able to walk through unscathed on Bourbon Street was because we had the entire street following us attached to the driver’s side and passenger side window. And I just thought that was awesome.
“I have to say there’s nothing like that high of winning a Super Bowl. I like to smoke (laughs) but there’s nothing like that, there’s nothing like that, that pure adrenaline. That’s what football brings. That’s what I’ll miss the most. That natural high, that pure adrenaline, making that play on fourth-and-goal, making the interception to end the game. That’s something you can’t ever replace. That’s the part of the game I will miss the most for sure.”
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