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John Casto has one very important and as yet unfulfilled dream. More than anything in this world, the starting adjuster for the Crimson varsity wants to be part of a Harvard victory over arch-rival Yale.
Casto plans to make the very most of tomorrow, the last chance he and the other seniors on the squad have to win "The Game." Known and respected for giving 100 per cent every time he steps on the field, Casto admits to having something extra saved up just for Yale.
"It is not really my style to play angry, but when it comes to Yale I have no trouble getting downright vicious," Casto said recently. "I consider the Yale game a season in itself and a victory this year in the Bowl would erase our losing record, leaving me with one sweet victory by which to remember my Harvard football career."
Emerging as a starter just this season, Casto or "Dirty John" as his teammates know him, has risen through the Harvard program in the traditional manner. Taking no shortcuts, he scratched and clawed his way up from the freshman and J.V. teams to play, behind Tom "Bat" Masterson last year.
Assistant coach Leo Fanning is quick to point out that Casto plays an unusually demanding position.
"Within our defensive secondary scheme adjuster is the position where the player must make quick decisions and then react accordingly. To do this as well as John has, an athlete must have two important gifts, athletic ability and the mental capacity to use those abilities," Fanning says. "It is important to realize that while John is a very talented young man, it is his willingness to put his nose to the grindstone and work that has made him the outstanding player he is."
That desire to excel on the gridiron stems from Casto's pure love of the game. Casto has dedicated nearly 14 years to his favorite sport. Growing up in Southern California his exposure to organized sports came very early.
"I had been playing baseball in Thousand Oaks for a little while when my folks decided to start me in football," Casto says. "My first practice was just horrible. I didn't even know what a football was."
Taking only a short time to get better acquainted with his new sport, Casto starred as a running back in the local Pop Warner I eague. Unfortunately a move to Mobile Ala. near the beginning of his first year of high school gave him too late a start to impress the coaches at Mobile's W.P. Davidson High. Casto did his share of ben-chwarming.
Casto waited patiently for an opportunity to prove himself. Mirroring his college career, that chance came in the final year. By the end of the season his performance earned him All-County honors at safety.
Matching his football skills with an impressive academic record, he attracted the attention of several big-name schools. When the time came to choose, Casto opted for Harvard. Already eyeing a career in medicine he felt Harvard would best provide him with the two programs he was looking for--a competitive football team and a rigorous academic setting.
Despite wanting to attend a school that would challenge him academically, Casto is one pre-med who never lets course work get in the way of receiving the complete "Harvard education."
"My philosophy towards the way I wanted to spend my four years at Harvard was to put people and relationships first, learning as much outside the classroom as in," Casto says. "If I made good grades and had a good time doing it, fine. Otherwise, no matter how good, the grades would be worthless."
When Casto speaks of the friendships he's enjoyed at Harvard he points specifically to activities with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes or just informal get-togethers with team members or roommates.
"Three of my roommates, including Ron Jellison who is an assistant with the freshman team, have all been associated with the Harvard football program at some time, and this year is as much for them as for me," Casto said. "They did not have the opportunity to continue playing because of injuries, so I am playing for all of us," he added.
In addition to his active role as a player, the Leverett House senior has returned home to Mobile each summer to coach the defensive backs at his high school. This experience aided him in developing what Coach Fanning calls a "coachable actitude."
Football will always play a significant role in Casto's life. He plans to combine work in sports medicine with some coaching.
"Football is simply too important a part of my life to drop just because my own career is ending," Casto said recently. "I feel very confident that I can continue on with the game in some capacity."
Casto has no regrets about the way he's spent his four years at Harvard. In class and out, he's accomplished his main goal, "to make my college years the very best of my life." Now he needs only that elusive win over Yale to put the icing on the cake.
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