Luis Castillo recalled the days when, as a young boy, he would pass by the old Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, dreaming of one day playing there.
The fantasy came true for Castillo, who grew up in Garfield, some five minutes away. But in his latest trip to the Garden State, the San Diego Chargers' defensive got a harsh dose of reality.
The team lost to the New York Jets at the MetLife Sports Complex, which replaced the old Meadowlands field last year, on Sunday, 27-21. Castillo's homecoming was made worse because, after suffering a fractured tibia in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings, he couldn't play.
It was a different story in 2005, when a 110-person Castillo entourage filled the old stadium – with a oversized Dominican flag.
"It was a place where I always enjoyed playing a lot. I have had the opportunity to have played three games here. It's sad I couldn't play my fourth game here this year," Castillo told Fox News Latino. "It's always something totally different and so special to play not only in front of your family but there's always more of my people always coming here. And also incredible playing in a stadium that's five minutes away from where I grew up."
Although Castillo has missed the last six games for the Chargers, he said that he expects to come back soon. Team reports suggest he could return some time in November.
"Yes. Yes. Without a question," Castillo said about putting on the pads this season. "That's the goal. Try to return this year and to do everything that's possible to not only help this team get to the playoffs but also go farther beyond there."
The Chargers are 4-2 and in first place in the American Football Conference west division. Still, their play has been uneven.
That's the goal. Try to return this year and to do everything that's possible to not only help this team get to the playoffs but also go farther beyond there.
- Luis Castillo, defensive end for the San Diego Chargers
So Castillo sits idly by, waiting to come back. He said all he could do is continue to work hard – though it's been a difficult stretch for a player who has only missed three games during the last three seasons.
"Up until this moment what I haven't said too much," Castillo said. "For me it's simply been lowering my head and keep working hard and to try to get back as quickly as I can. It's healing and it's getting better."
In his absence others on the team have stepped in to fill the void that was left once he went down with the freakish injury that occurred on a false start late in the fourth quarter of that opening game.
"It's very difficult," said Castillo about not being able to be on the field with his teammates. "The good thing is I see my teammates, great players, guys like Vaughn Martin, who's playing at my position, and I see the effort and that he is playing with energy and that encourages [me] because it let's me know that we're a great family and we're all playing for one goal."
For now, aside from rehabbing, all he can do on the field is cheer from the sidelines, as he did last Sunday against the Jets and hope for a speedy recovery and return while staying in good spirits.
Case in point: the quick Spanish exchange he and Martin had by their lockers after the
disappointing loss. Martin blurted out some lyrics sang by reggaeton artists of whom Castillo, one of three Latinos on the team, is a fan.
Antonio Garay, who is of Costa Rican, Puerto Rican and Jamaican descent, though a bit older than Castillo, shares a connection because of their Jersey roots. He mentioned the good-natured ribbing he receives from Castillo about not being fluent in Spanish.
"He gets on me all the time. He's been actually talking to me about taking some classes and not just doing the Rosetta Stone thing," Garay said, adding that he expects to be on the field with his friend soon enough.
"We got a good D-line," he added. "Guys are filling in how they're supposed fill in for him but he's a big part of this defense. From the persona this defense had, you know, years back when he first got here, he's one of the few guys that are still left from that group. We definitely can't
wait for him to come back and for him to bring that little extra that we need, you know that push, that end-of-the-year push that we need."
Adry Torres, who has covered MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA basketball games and related events, is a regular contributor to Fox News Latino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @adrytorresnyc.