Vicksburg native working to be top recruit

Published 10:35 am Monday, July 7, 2014

Vicksburg native Jamarian Caston is among one of the top recruits in the country in the college football signing class of 2016. (Submitted to The Vicksburg Post)

Vicksburg native Jamarian Caston is among one of the top recruits in the country in the college football signing class of 2016. (Submitted to The Vicksburg Post)

Team USA football member Jamarian Caston keeps strong ties to River City

Jamarian Caston doesn’t like to brag about himself. That much is evident within the first five minutes of talking to him, when he defers the exposure he’s received over the last year to his unrelenting faith in the Big Man Upstairs.

“I really just pray to ask God to give me more looks and more faith in doing what I can do and showing my talent,” Caston says. “That’s really it.”

But his mother knows that’s not really it, so she takes it upon herself to explain the grueling training sessions he puts himself through to ensure his status as a blue chip recruit upon graduation in 2016. She knows it takes a tenacious work ethic to go along with spiritual guidance to prepare for the upper echelon of college football.

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“He also stays in communication with a lot of the coaches he has met in the recruiting process, not to mention Jamarian does a lot of training,” Talya Huntley said. “He has 6:30 a.m. workouts and he’s usually there working out Monday through Friday.”

Caston is an upcoming high school junior at Archbishop Riordan in San Francisco, but his roots to Mississippi are tied tighter than the laces on his Team USA cleats. His mother spent much of her early life in the Magnolia State, graduating from Alcorn State with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree before moving her family to the West Coast when Caston was 6 in hopes of providing him with more opportunities.

So while the 16-year-old grew up on the bustling streets of San Francisco instead of the muddy banks of the Mississippi River, he still interjects, almost proudly, “But I can still say I’m from Mississippi.”

The upcoming junior has a lot to thank God for these days, especially since his selection to the U-19 Team USA this year. Caston was picked to play in the International Bowl at UT-Arlington in February and, although USA fell to Canada 28-21, he was named both captain of the squad and MVP runner-up.

It wasn’t by accident, either. The honors scholar took it upon himself to showcase his leadership skills early and often as he prepared for the matchup. He was almost as determined to prove his worth off the field as he was on it.

“I told myself when I first got there I was going to be a big man to this team, meaning I was going to lead on the field and off the field. In the lunchroom, bed check, everywhere else,” Caston said.

If the Team USA coaches told the players to jump, Caston wouldn’t have time to ask how high. He’d already be in the air.

“If the coach wanted us in bed by 9:30, I was going to have everybody in bed by 9 so when the coach comes to check, (the players would) be like, ‘Jamarian made sure we were in bed by 9:30’,” he said. “I took it upon myself to be a leader like that.”

Sprinting out of the tunnel to the booming American chants brought a tingle to his spine as he recounted the experience. The only three letters he cared about in that moment went from NFL to USA.

“It’s amazing. It’s an amazing feeling hearing the crowd chant ‘U-S-A’. Now that’s a chant. That is a chant,” Caston said, beaming through the telephone. “It’s amazing. Being with those three letters across your chest, running out with the flag, having everybody chanting ‘U-S-A.’ It’s amazing.”

But even the boisterous U.S. crowd could not come close to matching the intensity of the 6-2, 220-pound linebacker. Caston, who is likened to Ray Lewis by his teammates at Riordan, makes sure to command a vocal presence in the locker room and on the field.

“You could say I’m two times more spirited than Ray Lewis is. In the weight room, I’ll just start screaming, ‘Ahhhhh. Dig deep!’ On the field I’ll start screaming, on the track, out of nowhere,” he said. “I get almost all my teammates, I get their spirits up. Say somebody had a bad day and they come in the weight room, I’ll start screaming to the point where they’ll start laughing. Then they get their spirits up.”

Caston mentions the track because he’s not just a football player. He also runs track, plays basketball, and just last year received permission from his mother to join Archbishop Riordan’s rugby team. He scored 14 tries in his first season. The very first time he threw the shot put, he flung the heavy metal ball 49 meters.

The All-American do-it-all is successful in everything he sets out to do, which is why he’s got colleges across the country salivating for his talents. Caston has made visits to Texas, TCU, Baylor, SMU and Southern California in the past year, and is hoping to see even more schools before his senior season. Assisting him achieve that goal has been a host of individuals and businesses across the country that help sponsor his travels. Among them have been the Vicksburg Packers, a youth football team in town that has connected Vicksburg with Caston and his mom from 2,000 miles away. The Packers help fund Caston’s visits and provide a sturdy link from his present to his past.

His top school right now is LSU, as Caston hopes to travel back down south to become a part of the frenzied passion that is college football below the Mason-Dixon line. But he hasn’t ruled out a Mississippi homecoming, and he plans on visiting Ole Miss and Mississippi State while preparing for his decision in the coming years.

“Just playing for the International Bowl in Texas really opened my eyes, meaning how southern football is,” Caston said from a cellphone in his mother’s car as they hustled off to another workout session. “I’m more of the southern kid that wants to go back home to play ball.”