Casteel honored by alumni association
“What an honor! I can’t believe the people of Paden City would think so much of me to give me this great award.” Those were just some of the thoughts expressed by the 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Jeff Casteel, when he received word of his award.
The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest award granted by the Paden City Alumni Association to a living alum of Paden City High School and is awarded annually as part of the Alumni Weekend activities. This year’s events take place July 3-5 and are sure to include something for everyone.
Casteel, the defensive coordinator for the West Virginia University Mountaineer football team, will be celebrated with a reception beginning at 4:30 p.m. on July 4 in the lower hall of Paden City High School. A spokesperson for the DAA committee commented, “In past years we used the high school library, but this year the committee felt we would need extra space and will hold the reception in the first floor hall which is a more wide open area with views to the second floor, trophy cases, and class pictures of all of the PCHS graduating classes dating back to 1952. We feel it will add more spirit to the atmosphere of the event and give us more room to accommodate a large crowd. The reception is one of the more formal events of Alumni Weekend.” Following the reception, the Green and White Alumni Banquet will be held in the school’s multi-purpose building/banquet hall.
Casteel is being honored for an illustrious career in coaching. While many may know of him for his defensive schemes and plays at WVU, Casteel has excelled in the sport of football since his playing days in Paden City. He was a senior on the Wildcat football team that captured the West Virginia Class A State Championship in 1979 by defeating Bishop Donahue 19-6 on Charleston’s Laidley Field. Casteel continued his educational and athletic careers at California State College in Pennsylvania, obtaining a bachelor’s degree. He stayed at the college, serving as an assistant coach and earning his Master’s degree. From there, Casteel went to Florida to teach and coach high school football at Palmetto High School. He returned to West Virginia and Shepherd College and helped lead a highly successful football program to several conference championships and national prominence with appearances in the National NAIA playoffs and NCAA Division II playoffs. Under his tutelage, many Shepherd student athletes were named All-Conference players. While coaching at Shepherd, Casteel also served as an assistant for two years at the Baltimore Stallions (CFL) training camp.
Casteel’s next role was that of defensive ends coach at the University of Texas-El Paso. While there, one of his athletes, Menson Holloway, was named All-American. During his tenure at UTEP, the university won the Western Athletic Conference championship and earned a berth in the Humanitarian Bowl.
In 2001, Casteel again returned to West Virginia and to WVU to coach his beloved Mountaineers. It was here his career and reputation skyrocketed. In his early years at WVU, the defense struggled. He re-invented himself, his coaching style, and the Mountaineer pass defense and in just one year, the defense of WVU went from a national ranking of 109th to a top 10 defensive ranking. His new defense, the 3-3 Stack, become popular and desired by many teams at all levels. He co-authored a book and DVD on how to implement it and the type of player needed for it to be successful. His book is in publication now and is widely read by those in the coaching profession at all levels. The year 2007 was a definite highlight year for Casteel and the Mountaineers. The defense, under his guidance, finished the season ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, eighth in scoring defense, and 14th in pass efficiency defense. Following the season, Casteel was named the National Defensive Coordinator of the Year by Rivals.com. He helped guide the Mountaineers in six bowl games with victories in the Sugar, Gator, Fiesta and Car Care Bowls. In all, Casteel has coached in seven bowl games. While coaching at WVU, Casteel has guided four All-Americans: Marc Magro, Jay Henry, Grant Wiley, and Reed Williams. James Davis, along with Magro, Wiley and Holloway of UTEP, all went on to be professional football players.
Through all his successes over the years, Casteel has remained loyal and closely tied to his hometown and school in Paden City. In 2008, the Jeff Casteel Student-Athlete Scholarship was established in his honor. To date, three graduates from Paden City High School have benefited from this award. Casteel is also on record as a great supporter of the continued existence of Paden City High School and has made his wishes and feelings known on the issue.
“We are honoring Jeff for a career, that although still short in terms of years, is long and full of accomplishments. He has excelled in the sport of football as a player and coach for over 30 years and continues to accomplish great feats,” said the DAA committee. His nominating papers included the remarks, “Jeff Casteel is an excellent example of how a boy from a small town can, through hard work, strive to and achieve great things and rise even to a level of national prominence in a chosen field. He is a nationally recognized and respected football coach and defensive coordinator. Just as importantly, he serves as a role model for the youth of Paden City and a living testament that greatness can come from our school and town and that goals, no matter how lofty, are achievable.”
Many of Casteel’s former coaches have attested to his willingness and desire for hard work and dedication. WVU Head Football Coach Bill Stewart wrote, “. . . he totally re-charged the attitude of the entire football program. In regard to Jeff’s character and background, both are flawless. He is a superior motivator who gets young men excited about playing the game of football. . . a man I would like my son to play for.”
One of his former high school coaches, the legendary Bob Burton, penned this comment, “Jeff has never forgotten his roots and will forever be a Wildcat. Jeff was always a team player and was admired by all his classmates and team members.” Another high school coach, Ron Renner wrote, “Jeff has always been a person of high intelligence, character, loyalty, and dedication.”
Casteel added, “I never would have guessed that over 30 years ago when I was just a little kid running around Paden City and playing football that I would one day be receiving an honor like this. It really is a great honor to receive this award and I owe a lot of it to my growing up in Paden City and the people that surrounded me there. I am really touched and honored beyond words.”