After a 2019 season filled with inconsistency in the kicking game, it looks like the Jets might have found their leg of the future in an unexpected way.
Prior to Week 7, Sam Ficken was well on his way to establishing himself as a kicker the Jets could rely on. The Penn State product endured an up and down 2019 campaign with New York, but he was solid in the first half of 2020, converting nine of his 10 field goal attempts. That included a 5-5 performance against the Dolphins in Week 4.
Then, the injury bug bit.
Ficken was forced to the sideline with a groin injury, leaving the Jets in a bind to find a new kicker on short notice. New York turned to the little-known Sergio Castillo, a 30-year-old Canadian Football League star whose last NFL opportunity came with the Falcons in 2014.
Castillo was first viewed as a short-term fill-in for the injured Ficken, but he has earned his place in the Jets’ special teams room with Ficken still on the shelf. Through three games, Castillo has hit six of his seven field goal attempts, including five in the last two weeks against the Chiefs and Patriots. His lone miss was a blocked kick against Kansas City.
“I’m still in awe,” Castillo said, per team reporter Clemson Smith Muñiz. “I can’t believe that I get to play for the New York Jets.”
Most kickers follow the road less traveled en route to the NFL, but Castillo’s story is unique. He grew up in small-town La Joya, Texas, and received only one offer from Division II West Texas A&M out of high school. After failing to catch on with the Falcons, he bounced around from the CFL to the Alliance of American Football and the XFL. He also endured a torn ACL in 2017, which threatened to end his career.
“There were weak moments when I thought I would never get another chance,” Castillo said. “But every day I get up and write down my goals. On how to be a better person, a better kicker, a better future husband, a better future father.”
Castillo can now check off his top professional goal — playing in the NFL. At the clip he has been producing, it’s safe to assume his stay won’t be a temporary one, either.