SAISD Athletic Hall of Fame
Class of 2017: Victor 'Vic' Castillo (Brackenridge, football), Gary Bell (Burbank, baseball), Phil Harris (Jefferson, football), Joel Horlen (Burbank, baseball), Howard “HJ” Johnston (Highlands. track coach), Willie Mitchell (Wheatley, football) and Laura Neugebauer-Groff (Jefferson, volleyball).
When: Saturday, Aug. 26, 4 p.m.
Where: Alamo Convocation Center (adjacent to Alamo Stadium)
Tickets: Individual, $25; table for eight, $200 (sponsorships available)
For more information: (210) 554-2655
SAN ANTONIO – Victor “Vic” Castillo played on the Brackenridge High School varsity football team for only one season, but what a glorious season it was for him and the Eagles.
Starting at quarterback in the same backfield with legendary running back Warren McVea, Castillo was a standout in his own right during Brack’s memorable march to the Class 4A state championship in 1962.
Castillo capped his senior season with a stellar performance in the Eagles’ 30-26 victory against undefeated Borger in the title game, completing 14 of 28 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns. His passing yardage total stood as a record for a 4A state final until Lee’s Tommy Kramer threw for 257 yards in the Volunteers’ 28-27 win over Wichita Falls in 1971.
“They called us a Cinderella team because we were underdogs throughout the playoffs,” Castillo said. “We were just a bunch of happy-go-lucky guys, but at the same time, we had some very talented players and great coaches.”
Castillo completed 112 of 225 passes for 2,145 yards and 25 TDs in 1962. He was the first high school player in state history to pass for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
“The thing I’ll always remember about that team is that we got along so well even though we had guys from so many different junior highs,” Castillo said. “We blended together. It was kind of a brotherhood.”
Coached by the late Weldon Forren, the 1962 Eagles finished 11-3 and remain the last team from a San Antonio Independent School District to win a football state title.
Castillo, 72, is among seven former greats who will be inducted into the San Antonio ISD Athletic Hall of Fame on Aug. 26 at the Alamo Convocation Center.
The other members of the Class of 2017 are Gary Bell (Burbank, baseball), Phil Harris (Jefferson, football), Joel Horlen (Burbank, baseball), Howard “HJ” Johnston (Highlands. track coach), Willie Mitchell (Wheatley, football) and Laura Neugebauer-Groff (Jefferson, volleyball).
“I’m not about awards, but it’s flattering and it’s an honor,” Castillo said of his Hall induction. “But it’s not just about me. We’re also celebrating the fact that we achieved the ultimate goal for a high school team, winning a state championship."
“It’s also how we won it. We were underdogs against (Houston) Spring Branch in the semifinals and Borger, both ranked No. 1 and undefeated, but we overcame the odds. We established something at Brack that season.”
The 1962 Eagles remain a close-knit group to this day, meeting for lunch on the last Wednesday of each month at a restaurant near Brack. Ever the leader, Castillo started the monthly reunions seven years ago.
“It’s a way for us to stay in touch, keep up with each other,” Castillo said. “We have a core group of at least 10 guys that’s going to be there no matter what.”
Brack started the 1962 season 2-2 and was 4-3 after losing to Corpus Christi Miller in a non-district game, but the Eagles went 7-0 the rest of the way. Their flight to glory mirrored Castillo’s steady improvement.
Brack stunned its four playoff opponents with a potent passing game that was ahead of its time. Castillo was the triggerman, but he had plenty of help from McVea, sure-handed halfback Pete Bautista, and ends Eddie Villarreal and Willian Hines. The Eagles outscored opponents 473-194 that season.
Castillo was spectacular in the 30-23 victory over Spring Branch in the semifinals, completing 13 of 25 passes for 368 yards and five TDs.
Given his humble beginnings at Brack, Castillo’s feats as a senior were even more impressive. That he even played high school football is a story itself.
With an eye toward going to college, Castillo planned to attend Jefferson, one of the best academic schools in the city then, when he was a freshman at Irving Junior High. SAISD high schools had only three grades in those days.
“I didn’t know how I was going to do it financially, but I wanted to go to college,” Castillo said. “I probably weighed 100 pounds soaking wet as a freshman, and I thought the coaches would think I was too small, too short and too slow to play in high school. I was just being realistic.”
But Milton Dresch, Castillo’s freshman coach at Irving, saw potential in the skinny quarterback and encouraged him to continue playing in high school.
“Milton Dresch holds a very special place in my heart,” Castillo said. “He said I was a quarterback and that I had to believe in myself. Coach Dresch convinced me that I could do it. Looking back, he was recruiting some of us because he was moving from Irving to Brack the next year.”
SAISD had open enrollment in those days. Castillo grew up on Delgado Street, now in the Fox Tech attendance zone. Castillo enrolled at Brack as a sophomore and was the “B” team quarterback in his first two seasons.
“I could have easily quit my 10th grade and 11th-grade year, but I hung on,” he said. “I kept hearing Coach Dresch’s words in my mind: ‘You can do it.’ Never in my wildest imagination did I think I was going to start on the varsity and play on a state-championship team and play in college.”
Castillo said that Dresch and Charlie Urbanowich, who also coached at Irving, were father figures to him.
This season will mark the 55th anniversary of Brack’s title run. John F. Kennedy was in the White House then and, just as today, the country faced problems abroad and at home.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been that long ago,” Castillo said.
Castillo went on to play two seasons at Kansas State, leading the Wildcats in passing both years. Although he still had a year of eligibility left (freshmen were ineligible for the varsity back then), Castillo decided to leave K-State when coach Doug Weaver was fired after the 1966 season. He transferred to Kansas City Teachers College, now Emporia State, and completed his career with the Hornets in 1967.
Castillo graduated from Kansas State Teachers College in 1968 and was a teacher and coach in Kansas until returning to San Antonio in 1977.
He stayed in his hometown for the rest of his career, coaching at SAISD schools Sam Houston, Fox Tech and Lanier before becoming an administrator.
After serving as an assistant principal at Brack for 10 years, Castillo retired but still worked as a substitute administrator. He became a full-time assistant principal at Jay in 2007 and remained at the Northside ISD school until retiring in 2012.
Castillo, who still lives in San Antonio, was the fifth of six children and youngest of four sons born to Rosa and Vidal Castillo, both deceased. Vidal Jr., the oldest of the children, "was my role model," Castillo said.
All these years after that championship season in 1962, Castillo has vivid memories of the big crowd that welcomed the conquering heroes when they returned from the state final in Abilene. The game was played on a Saturday afternoon and the Eagles returned to the Brack campus that night.
“There were so many people there that the bus couldn’t take us back to the gym, where we needed to go,” Castillo recalled. “There was just a sea of people standing shoulder to shoulder. We couldn’t get back there. As we got off the bus, people started putting us on their shoulders and carrying us to the gym. It was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s the best experience I remember whenever I start to reminisce.”
Looking back, Castillo’s senior season also could be described in one word: Wow.