As the starting center for the Missouri Tigers, Trystan Colon-Castillo has become accustomed to engaging in hand-to-hand combat with the best defensive linemen from the nation’s top college football conference.
Whether he’s blocking for his quarterback or attempting to open up running lanes, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound junior-to-be has a defined role each Saturday of the fall. But on Monday morning inside Webb City High School’s Cardinal Dome, Colon-Castillo took on a much different role — motivational speaker.
Before reentering the world of big-time college football later this week, Colon-Castillo returned to his alma mater to offer some words of wisdom to John Roderique’s Webb City Cardinals.
The prep athletes took a knee and listened intently as the 2016 Webb City graduate and current NCAA Division I standout spoke.
“I just wanted to tell them to work hard every single day and not to take any days off,” Colon-Castillo said. “Every day you don’t get better, you’re giving your opponents an opportunity to get the edge on you.
“I also told them that they should be thankful to come from such a football-rich town,” the former state champion and all-state performer added. “There’s not a lot of places around where the whole town is behind the team and roots for them the way Webb City does.”
As he prepares for his third year as a starting offensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference, Colon-Castillo noted he returns to his old stomping ground as much as possible. To Colon-Castillo, staying close to his roots keeps him not only grounded and humble but also keeps him motivated for those days or moments when things get tough.
“I’m just a regular guy from Webb City, Missouri,” Colon-Castillo said. “I’m just a small-town kid, and I have that in the back of my mind all the time. I’m playing against a lot of guys from big cities every week in the SEC, so I’m living out my dream right now. Starting for Mizzou means a lot to me.”
In 2018, Colon-Castillo started all 13 games at center and played a key role as the Tigers ranked 13th nationally and third in the SEC in total offense (481.8 yards per game average) and 18th nationally in scoring (36.6 points per game). Missouri (8-5) was one of only three Power 5 offenses to throw for at least 279 yards per game while also rushing for at least 200 yard per game, with Clemson and Oklahoma the other two schools to pull off the feat.
Colon-Castillo first earned a starting spot as a redshirt freshman in 2017, earning SEC All-Freshman Team honors.
With his junior season on the horizon, Colon-Castillo is all set to once again anchor Missouri’s offensive line. The Tigers begin camp on Friday in preparation of the 2019 season, with the season opener slated for Aug. 31 at Wyoming.
“I’m just really excited to get the season going,” Colon-Castillo said. “We’ve got a really good group. A lot of guys are hungry to win. I’m eager to see how this year plays out for us.”
Colon-Castillo will be providing protection for a new quarterback this fall, as Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant will be under center after Drew Lock took his talents to the Denver Broncos of the NFL. The Tigers are picked third in the SEC East preseason media poll.
“We set the expectations high on our own,” Colon-Castillo said. “There’s some things out of our control right now off the field, so we want to focus on what we can control and that’s how we come out and play on the field each week. We’re going to give it our best every week.”
Colon-Castillo has received some preseason attention as he was named to the Athlon Sports Preseason All-SEC fourth team and was also named to the watch list for the Rimington Trophy, which recognizes the nation’s top center.
“Being nominated for the Rimington was real nice,” he said. “Winning that is a dream of mine. That would be crazy.”
Other individual goals include earning all-conference and all-American honors, Colon-Castillo said.
While he remains solely focused on the upcoming season, Colon-Castillo admitted it’s hard not to think about possibly playing at the next level once his college days come to an end. In fact, Mel Kiper Jr. listed Colon-Castillo as the fifth-ranked underclassmen center for the 2020 NFL Draft.
“When I left Webb City, I felt like I left a pretty good legacy there,” he said. “I’d like to leave a legacy at Mizzou too. That’s what I’m focused on now.
“I’ve matured a lot since high school and I’ve learned more about the game, especially pass-blocking,” he added. “I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m hungry to get better.”
Colon-Castillo noted he’ll never forget where he comes from as he strives for those lofty goals and continued success. In fact, Colon-Castillo said he strives to be a role model, on and off the field, for all those players he spoke to earlier this week inside the Cardinal Dome.
“I just want to represent Webb City the best way possible,” Colon-Castillo said. “Everything I do reflects the people who helped me get to where I am. And I don’t want to disappoint them. I want to make my hometown proud.”