FOXBOROUGH, MA—In his sixth season playing in the NFL, one of the best things that could have happened to Jonathan Casillas’ career happened.
After spending the last year and a half playing for the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaners, Casillas was traded to the New England Patriots, who have established themselves as one of the greatest teams of all time.
In Tampa Bay, he played for former Rutgers University head coach Greg Schiano, who was fired after a rough 2013 season.
Since being traded to New England, Casillas made an immediate impact and shined bright both on special teams and defense for the Patriots.
The 27-year-old New Brunswick native got the news that he was traded to New England on a Tuesday, and reported for work with his new team by Wednesday.
Calling the Patriots “another incredible organization,” Casillas took to his Twitter to say, “Blessed to have an opportunity to play for such a legendary franchise with a winning culture.”
Casillas didn’t have much time to soak it all in or think about anything but learning the Patriots playbook as quickly as possible.
Not skipping a beat, he was on the field that Sunday.
After being traded from a team with one of the worst records in the league, Casillas hit the field in his new #52 uniform as a member of the mighty Patriots and immediately made his prescense felt.
Although he only played on special teams in his first few games, Casillas would end up starting a few games on defense after a few of New England’s players were forced to sit out due to injuries.
Casillas fit in perfect with Patriots defense and played just as good as any top defensive linebacker.
Ten weeks after being traded, Casillas and his new team now find themselves playing in the Super Bowl, the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
No stranger to playing in big games, this year’s Super Bowl will be his seventh postseason game of Casillas’ career. He made a game-changing play that helped the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl.
But his football career started playing for the New Brunswick High School Zebras, right here in Middlesex County.
Casillas was raised on Remsen Avenue in New Brunswick, and played college football for the University of Wisconsin before turning pro.
On his newest team, Casillas quickly made a big impact, causing television analyst and former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms to say on national television, “Wow, what a quick way of indoctrinating himself to the team and being productive.”
New England’s coach Bill Belichick called Casillas a “four-down player,” indicating Casillas has the skill set to play against the run or pass, as well as on special teams.
Casillas did just that in the Patriots 43-21 win over the Denver Broncos, playing on kickoffs, kick returns, punts and punt returns.
“Casillas had a real good night for us last night with his play on special teams. Tackles and coverage and return units and protection and so forth,” said Belichick.
Lucky for Casillas, the week following their win against the Broncos, the Patriots had a bye week which gave Casillas a little extra time to learn the new playbook a little better.
Ten weeks later, Casillas and the Patriots defeated the Indianapolis Colts in a 45-7 blowout to win another conference championship, sending Casillas to his second Super Bowl.
After the game, Casillas said that he was “Beyond blessed and graetful to be a part of such an incredible orginization.”
Casillas missed a few weeks of action before being traded, but still managed to rack up 28 tackles and a forced fumble in just ten games with his new team.
Casillas now has a total of 37 tackles for the season and a forced fumble.
The trade that brought Casillas and several other players to New England proved to be smart one.
Casillas and a few of the players that were a part of that trade have played great and have helped get the Patriots to where they’re at now.
Many in the City of New Brunswick will be rooting for Casillas and the Patriots, a team that has also seen great performances by a handful of former Rutgers University athletes this season.
The New England Patriots will take on the defending Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, in the big game.
Super Bowl XLIX will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, and televised on NBC at 6:30pm on February 1.