By Kyle LoJacono
Wesley Chapel High seniors Chris Pierre-Charles and R.J. Nixon signed to play at the college level June 9, the last day of school for the players and coach John Castelamare.
Committing on the final school day is symbolic for the Wildcats football program as the two players are the last from coach Castelamare’s time with the school to sign with colleges.
“It’s our last hurrah at the school,” Castelamare said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to all the guys. I remember when we started the football program here in 1999. We had no weight room, no stadium and no field. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of great kids grow up.”
Castelamare has to leave the school because this was his fifth year in the Deferred Retirement Option Program, which gives teachers financial motivation to retire. He helped guide Wesley Chapel to two undefeated regular seasons, three districts championships and a 63-50 record.
“I was blessed to play under coach Castelamare,” said Pierre-Charles, who played tight end and fullback. “I can’t put it into words. He helped take me from a child to a man in football and in life. I’ll always remember the things he taught me.”
Also leaving the football program is line coach Brian Colding, who was recently named to the same position with Pasco. Colding will remain at Wesley Chapel as a physical education teacher and will continue to coach track and field for the Wildcats.
“They’ve both been great coaches and I’ve learned a lot from them,” Nixon, lineman, said. “They both helped me and everyone else whenever they needed anything with football or life.”
Colding said of leaving the program,” I’ve known coach (Castelamare) for 17 years and I’ve coached with him the last nine. He’s a great coach and runs a very organized program. I’ve learned a lot from him.”
The only coach in Wesley Chapel history will still coach the Wildcats next season, but next year it will be with Wildcats at Academy at the Lakes. While Castelamare had to retire from public schools, he can coach at private ones like the academy.
“I was fortunate that the academy gave me a chance,” Castelamare said. “It’s a transition going from a big program with 80 or 100 kids to the academy where we have 15 now. The goal is to get the program to 11-man from six-man football by getting kids to come out and join the team. It’s kind of like when we started here at Wesley Chapel. I’m energized to get started there.”
Castelamare said the two scholarships were the latest signed in program history.
“In a way it’s kind of a symbolic goodbye for us,” Colding said. “Those two schools are getting great kids because both love football and academics. They will do Wesley Chapel High School proud.”
Pierre-Charles will play slot receiver at Dean College in Massachusetts and will study sports management. Last season he had 257 yards rushing on 63 carries and five catches for 87 yards and one touchdown. He is listed at 6-foot-1, 237 pounds.
Pierre-Charles has lived his whole life in Florida and said he needs to buy a winter for the cold Massachusetts winters.
“He’ll have to learn how to ice fish,” Castelamare said jokingly.
Nixon is part of the first football class at Ave Maria University in Naples and will also study sports management. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder will likely see time at all the positions on the offensive line.
“We won’t start playing until next year,” Nixon said. “I picked it because it’s close to home and has strict educational standards. I also wanted to be part of the growing process of the new school.”
While Castelamare knows the two players are ready, it is still difficult for him to say goodbye.
“They both come from great families,” Castelamare said. “Nixon can play every o-line position and can long snap, but loves playing center…Chris (Pierre-Charles) is a hard worker, but he has to learn how to stay warm up there. I’ll miss them.”
The next chapter in Castelamare’s coaching legacy began with spring practice at the academy in May. The spring season ended with an intra-squad game and the coach likes what he saw.
“Having 15 kids is great because there are about 45 high school boys at the academy and the team only had eight players last year,” Castelamare said. “I’m really excited to start at the academy because I love every minute of coaching.”
Summer football workouts at the academy start June 21. Castelamare added the school offers scholarships to athletes. Those interested in attending the school should call (813) 948-7600 and ask for athletic director Tom Haslam.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.