Catching Up With History

Homecoming is the perfect weekend to celebrate Penn's history and the people who have made it so great. It's also a time for those who are still here to leave their mark in the history books. It's a time of celebration, of remembrance, and a chance to show the progress the school has made over the years.

While the Penn football tradition lives on and will be celebrated this homecoming weekend, new members of the team are already leaving their marks in the record books and showing that the success of the Penn football program is one that will continue for many years to come.

Ten years ago, the 1994 team left it's mark in the Penn history books. The team ended the season with its second-straight Ivy League championship, setting a precedent for the future of Penn football, while continuing Penn's dominance in the Ivy League. Penn wide receiver Miles Macik left his mark in the record books, becoming the record holder in most touchdown receptions in one season (13) and most career touchdown receptions (26), both of which he still holds today.

After 10 years, Macik finally has someone challenging him for his titles — senior wide receiver Dan Castles. Castles, one of Penn’s senior tri-captains this season, is already the record holder for most touchdown receptions in one game (four), has tied Macik for most touchdown receptions in one season (13 in 2003), and is on track to become the new record holder for most career touchdown receptions, needing only two to tie, and three to break Macik's record of 26. With six games to go, and five touchdown receptions under his belt already this season, the battle for the record doesn't seem to be a difficult one.

Castles has the second highest receiving yards in one season with 1,067 yards, trailing only Rob Milanese who has 1,112. Castles' modest nature comes through in his appreciation of the players who have come before him. When asked about the All-Bagnoli team that the Penn Athletic Department is currently compiling on its website, PennAthletics.com, Castles commented on the strength of all the players on the list. "I think there are a lot of good players on that list that all deserve votes. Not just me, but
other players who have come before me."

Castles is one of five current Quakers on the ballot for the All-Bagnoli team. He is up against four other wide receivers for two top spots which will be announced in the Penn-Harvard edition of Franklin Field Illustrated.

Yet for the Toms River, N.J. native, the records are just an added bonus. It's the chance to get to play a sport he loves for such a long time, and make such a large contribution that makes Penn football so important to him. "Breaking records isn't really that important to me,” Castles said. “I try not to think about them; I just go out there and play the best game that I can. My job out there is to help us get the win, not to try and break records."

While Castles isn't concentrating on making history, his athleticism and love for the game are assuring that his talent and devotion won't go unnoticed. With reporters and Penn fans alike comparing Castles to Penn's football greats, his talent is assuring that he will be remembered for a long time to come. "It's really nice to be compared to some of Penn's great players and to know that people think that highly of you. It's great to hear that people appreciate all the work that you've put in and know that you are trying your hardest."

Yet Castles isn't letting the success he has found with the Quakers go to his head, and certainly isn't letting the pressure of breaking records break his concentration. "I don't really think breaking records puts on any added pressure because I try not to think about them, like I've said before, I just go out and play the best that I can. If I happen to break a record in the process that's great."

The calm and collected nature Castles exudes can be seen in his performance already this season. Whether he is 3,000 miles away in San Diego, or at home on Franklin Field, Castles always seems to find the ball. After such a strong year last year, most teams are on the lookout for Castles’ tall stature and very large wingspan. Yet even though he is a marked man, he has been able to find the ball in the end zone in almost every game so far this year, including a total domination of Dartmouth in the Quaker's Ivy League opener at Franklin Field.

The teams’ leading wide receiver gets excited every time he steps onto Franklin Field before a game. "There is something about playing at Franklin Field and being before a home crowd that is great. It's hard to describe the feeling before a game but knowing that everybody there is cheering you on, and your friends and family are there to give support — it’s amazing."

Castles' football career began when he was only about six or seven, playing pop-warner football in his central New Jersey hometown. "It's a pretty funny story actually because I really didn't want to play football at all. My dad told me that I had to try it so he signed me up and we went to the first practice. By the time I walked off the field I was like 'Hey, this is great' and I've loved the sport ever since."

While football may not have been Castles’ first choice, he was athletic from the start and played not only football but also a plethora of other sports throughout elementary school and high school. "I started playing baseball when I was about five and played that all the way through high school. I also played soccer for a little bit, was on the high school basketball team and ran indoor track for a year."

Ultimately it was football that Castles chose, and he came to Penn ready to play. His tenure on the Penn football team is one that has greatly shaped his college career and one that he is extremely thankful for. "Being on this team definitely had a huge impact on the experience I had at Penn. We all come here to make friends and being on a team just gives you that opportunity to do it a little faster. Just think — you leave the field after practice with 109 guys that you know really well. It's a great feeling."

Castles is surrounded by Penn football all the time — both on and off the field. On the field, he is a hard worker who looks to improve with every snap of the ball. Off the field, he lives with Penn senior safety Brian Arguello, which is an experience in itself. "Living with one of the guys on the team makes the experience ever better. It's great knowing that I can spend time with guys that I really like both on and off the field. It makes school a lot more fun."

Castles' love for the team shows everyday, as he goes out there and gives it his all, whether it be in practice, on the road or game day at Franklin Field. "The individual goals I've set are only there so that I can help the team. Ultimately the most important thing we can do is win as a team."

Now in his fourth and final year on the team, Castles' role has changed greatly. "I think a lot of the responsibility that comes with being captain has to do with realizing that you aren't just on the field to learn for yourself anymore,” Castles said. “Everyone on the field is watching what you do and they are all looking to you for leadership and support. I try every time I'm on the field to set an example and help the younger players realize their potential."

Castles knows the goals for the team this year are big, but they are definitely not unattainable. "Our goal for this year is to win another Ivy League title. Not just win, but go undefeated in the League like we have so many times before."

Yet keeping the tradition alive after he has left the field is also important to Castles. "Penn's winning tradition goes back for so many years, not only is it important for this team to continue it, but it must continue for many years to come. After you leave, it's great to know that you come from a school with a good football history. I hope that years from now I can look back and see that the winning tradition is continuing here at Penn."

Castles’ final season at Penn has already been a memorable one. "The California trip was really exciting. I'd never been out there and it was a great chance to go with my friends, and the game was a great one for us."

The New Jersey native enjoys the inter-league play that the Quakers have come to
know at the start of every season. "I think it's a great opportunity to play against other leagues and see what other caliber of players are out there. I think the Ivy League is a very competitive one and I definitely think we can hold our own against competitors in the Patriot League and other teams we have faced this season."

As Castles' final homecoming experience begins, he hopes he can leave his mark on Penn history both on and off the field. "I really like that people appreciate my work on the field. While records aren't important, I think my teammates and fans know that I give it my all, and hope that it will show in our quest to win another Ivy League title this year. More importantly though, I hope that people remember me as a nice guy. I'd like to leave my mark off the field as well, and hope people remember that I'm not full of myself and the most important thing to me is how well the team does."

"Homecoming is a great weekend for the team. It's great to see guys that we have become friends with over the years come out to support us. It's also wonderful to know that so many past players are here to support us and still have so much faith in Penn football."

As for the rest of the season, Castles is looking forward to the season defining games. "The games at the end of the season are the ones that I look forward to, after we've had the chance to work out the kinks and we are playing to the best of our ability. I think the games at the end of the season are what define us, especially when there is a title on the line."

As Castles continues to lead the Quakers to victory throughout this season, he is elated to be compared to some of Penn's football greats, and hopes he can live up to everybody's expectations. "It's really nice to be compared to some of Penn's great players and to know that people think that highly of you. It's wonderful to hear that people appreciate all the work that you've put in and know that you are trying your hardest. I hope that my efforts throughout the rest of the season continue to bring success to this great Penn team."

With his final season coming to an end, Castles' achievements continue to pile up. With two records already in his name, and one in close reach, there is no doubt that Castles will remembered among the rest of the Penn football greats.

Written by Meghan Goddard, C'05, athletic communications assistant