Family friends guided and provided for OSU's James Castleman on his way to Stillwater
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Thursday, November 15, 2012
11/15/12 at 5:34 AM
STILLWATER - Multiple factors led to James Castleman winding up at Oklahoma State.
A last-minute visit to Stillwater prompted him to switch his commitment four days before signing day. If not for that change of heart, he would be playing for Texas Tech - the Cowboys' opponent Saturday.
But if not for a series of events six years ago, Castleman likely wouldn't be playing for any Big 12 school or starting at defensive tackle as an OSU sophomore.
It began with a pair of size-14, blue-and-white Nike basketball shoes.
As a single mother in Amarillo, Texas, Kim Castleman did everything she could to provide for James and his younger sister Peyton. Kim worked part-time jobs to keep an apartment roof over their head, but they couldn't afford luxuries.
In junior high, James already was a big kid - certainly the biggest on his eighth-grade basketball team. But athletic gear was expensive, and he didn't have name-brand stuff like his teammates at Bonham Middle School. While many of James' classmates were the children of wealthy families, his feet were bursting out of his beat-up sneakers.
"He wouldn't ever ask for anything, but I wanted to make sure he had the right shoes and the right clothes," Kim said. "I wanted to make sure he had it.
"James never asked me for a pair of shoes. He wouldn't tell me. He'd just make do with what he had."
While some kids might have teased him, one teammate noticed and wanted to help. After practice one day, Nolan David told his mom that James needed new basketball shoes and asked how he could raise money to pay for them.
"Initially, I wanted to (buy the shoes) to reward Nolan for noticing that and being someone with compassion," said Nolan's mother, Kris David. "He has an unusual sense of others' needs. He has since he was little and he still does today."
Because James' 14th birthday was approaching, Kris decided the shoes could be a present. So, after getting permission from Kim Castleman, she took James and Nolan to the mall and picked out a pair to match their team colors.
"(James) just kept saying, 'Mrs. David, I've never had anything like this. I don't even know how to thank you,' " Kris said. "When we dropped him off at his apartment, he said for the fifth or sixth time, 'Thank you, thank you so much. I don't know how I could ever repay you.' "
She didn't know what to say in return. She had never met him before that day. All she knew about James was that he struggled in school and often, as a result, was ineligible to participate in sports.
So, off-handedly, Kris told James not to worry about repaying her for the shoes and just to focus on his grades.
"I was one of those (who didn't) want to take something because they felt sorry for us," Kim said. "I wanted him to earn it. He said, 'It's for my birthday, Mom. I told them I would keep my grades up.' "
Four weeks later, the Davids' doorbell rang. The visitor was James, who tearfully attempted to return the shoes to Kris, explaining he had failed a math course.
That's when Kris knew this boy was someone whose life she wanted to be a part of. Over the next year or so, her family of five - husband Michael and children Halie, Nolan and Cole - grew to a family of eight.
When James needed a front tooth replaced, the Davids were there. When Kim desired to go back to school for her nursing degree, the Davids were there. When Peyton, now 10, wanted an American Girl doll, the Davids were there.
"They help us with little things that we normally wouldn't be able to take care of," Kim said. "When I was in school, even bringing over a meal or offering to pick Peyton up from school helped me - little things that don't require money, just to help somebody out who's really trying to better themselves."
While Michael became the only father figure James had ever had, Kris became focused on making sure James graduated from high school.
"That was really my goal, to see him graduate from high school one day," she said. "I just wasn't sure that he would, so I just began to pray about how I could help and be involved in that."
James was developing into a three-star football recruit, but his grades weren't good enough for him to qualify at an NCAA school. He needed B's in his core classes, and with learning disabilities that wasn't easy.
When the Davids bought him a used car, it came with one condition: Keep your grades above 80, or the car is off-limits. His first progress report arrived six weeks later, and on it was a 79. So the Chevy Tahoe was parked outside the Davids' home for three weeks, until James lifted his grades to an acceptable level. His grades remained solid through his senior year.
Kris made sure of it, checking his grades online.
"She was all over it, which made our home life better because we didn't have to fight over it," Kim said. "She kept his grades up, otherwise he wouldn't have grades enough to get into (college)."
After meeting NCAA requirements, James chose to play football at Texas Tech, two hours south of Amarillo. Late in the recruiting process, after the Red Raiders' defensive coordinator was replaced, he reconsidered his commitment.
When James expressed an interest in OSU, coach Mike Gundy and defensive assistants Glenn Spencer, Bill Young and Jason Jones flew to Amarillo and had dinner at the Davids' home with Michael and Kris (each a Texas Tech alum), along with Kim and James.
Spencer asked each one what they thought about James potentially attending OSU. When he got to Kris, she lost it.
"I just remember being so overwhelmed with gratitude and pride," she said, getting emotional again. "My goal was for him to graduate from high school, and here I was with four coaches from a Division I school, (realizing) that he was able to make that accomplishment.
"It was a big moment for me, because it was like, this is really happening."
The following weekend, Kris and her father, Grandpa Tex, took James on his official visit to Stillwater, and that's when he expressed a commitment to the Cowboys.
"It was very hard for him because he didn't want to go back on his word," Kris said. "But we all felt comfortable with him making that change."
Asked how hard it was to pry Castleman from Texas Tech, Gundy said: "Extremely difficult. Glenn Spencer did a great job with him. I think what it came down to is there was some instability there at that time that wasn't here."
James saw some playing time as a first-year freshman last season, but perhaps his biggest accomplishment was off the field. He was included on the Big 12 academic honor roll. When preseason camp began, he was No. 3 on the depth chart. Now, he is a starter and leads OSU defensive linemen in tackles.
Because of the David family, the future is bright for James, who turned 20 on Wednesday.
"They helped us get on the right track and start our lives over," he said. "Who knows where I would be if it wasn't for them. ... I might be at a juco or something smaller than that, but I don't know that I'd be here playing football."
2012 OSU SCHEDULE
Sept. 1: vs. Savannah State W, 84-0
Sept. 8: at Arizona L, 59-38
Sept. 15: vs. La.-Lafayette W, 65-24
Sept. 29: vs. Texas L, 41-36
Oct. 13: at Kansas W, 20-14
Oct. 20: vs. Iowa State W, 31-10
Oct. 27: vs. TCU W, 36-14
Nov. 3: at Kansas State L, 44-30
Nov. 10: vs. West Virginia W, 55-34
Nov. 17: vs. Texas Tech (FSOK) 2:30 p.m.
Nov. 24: at Oklahoma (TBA) 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 1: at Baylor TBD
Original Print Headline: A helping hand
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Oklahoma State's Shaun Lewis (left), James Castleman and Caleb Lavey tackle Texas' Kyle Ashby during a Sept. 29 game. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
James Castleman (third from left) stands with mother Kim and sister Peyton (fourth and fifth from left) and the David family: Cole (left), Halie, Michael, Kris and Nolan. Courtesy
Nolan David and James Castleman at their high school graduation in Amarillo, Texas. Courtesy photo
James Castleman and Nolan David while they were in the eighth grade. Courtesy photo