Lake Zurich grad Castonzo psyched to play Bears
Even if the Boy Wonder he's paid to protect turns out to be bad Luck this year, consider it good luck for Anthony Castonzo if he doesn't experience a repeat of last season.
Never mind the Indianapolis Colts' NFL-worst-tying 2-14 record in the left offensive tackle's rookie season.
During the Colts' fourth game, Castonzo, the pride of Hawthorn Woods and Lake Zurich High and the 22nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, suffered a left high ankle sprain. He missed the next four games, before playing the rest of the season on an ankle that pained every time he tried to start and stop his 6-foot-7, 315-pound frame.
The ankle was weak enough that once the Colts' season was over, Castonzo immediately underwent surgery.
"My ankle was not good for the last eight games last year," said Castonzo, who made 12 starts and was never flagged for holding. "I can't even begin to tell you how much better I feel. I wasn't able to change direction off that ankle at all. Being able to use it, and use my calf and use my leg, is a welcome surprise this year.
"I'm pretty excited to have fully functioning joints and ankles and legs."
The Colts' miserable '11 did bring lucky news. Indy secured the No. 1 pick in this year's draft and selected Stanford all-American boy QB Andrew Luck, who makes his much-hyped NFL debut today against the Bears at Soldier Field.
The season opener also marks a homecoming for local boys Castonzo, strong safety Tom Zbikowski (Buffalo Grove) and rookie tight end Coby Fleener (Joliet Catholic). All three players are expected to start on Chicago's Lakefront.
It will be Castonzo's first time playing in Soldier Field. It won't be the first time he's been in the stadium. As a (big) kid, Bill and Shari's little boy guesses he attended 5-10 Bears home games.
"It's funny because, growing up, I never pictured myself playing on Soldier Field as the opponent," Castonzo said with a laugh. "But it's going to be very exciting. It's going to be very cool and kind of surreal. I'm extremely pumped to get the season started, and there's really no better place to get the season started than the place where I went to games all my life growing up."
Castonzo will be busy keeping Julius Peppers from clawing at Luck, so don't expect the oversized OT to be making nice with one of his boyhood heroes, assuming the Bears' achy-kneed middle linebacker plays today.
"Up until through college, I had a poster of Brian Urlacher in my room," Castonzo said. "Now I'll be blocking him."
Castonzo was a fan of the Sackman, too.
"When I was really little, all I used to say was, 'I want to be like Richard Dent, and I want to crush the quarterback,' " Castonzo said with a laugh. "Now my sole purpose is to make sure the quarterback is on two feet.
"I was a confused child, I guess."
Playing left tackle in the NFL will make the head of any player spin. What Castonzo didn't need this past week was the multitude of ticket requests from family and friends.
Thank goodness the blocker got some protection help.
"My dad actually took the reigns on that," Castonzo said. "He got tickets from his friend over here, his connection over there. He knows this guy. He knows that guy. So he's kind of been the ticket broker this week. Which has taken a lot of the stress off me.
"All I had to do was get the family passes so they could meet me after the game. I think there's going to be a lot of Castonzo fans among the Colts fans — and among the Bears fans all over that stadium. That should be fun."
Rest assured, for three hours today, a healthy Anthony Castonzo will be all business.
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