By Bill Sorrell
B&R contributing writer
McKENZIE — On his cleats Sam Castronova wrote a soul message.
“I try to carry myself the right way,” said Castronova, a record-setting quarterback at Bethel University. “I started writing AO1 on my cleats. I got it from (Philadelphia Eagles quarterback) Carson Wentz. I’m playing for an Audience of One, playing for the one person that gave me my abilities to play the game I love.”
“Jesus means everything to me. He gave His life for me. He has blessed me with so much. I’m trying to do the best I can to honor Him.”
This season, Castronova led Bethel to a 10-1 record, the Mid-South Conference Bluegrass Division championship, the first unbeaten regular-season record and highest national ranking (3) in school history and the first playoff berth since 2012.
Named the Bluegrass Division Offensive Player of the Year, Castronova set the single-season school record with 28 touchdown passes and 2,453 passing yards. His touchdown record was set on Nov. 10, his 22nd birthday.
In every game, Castronova said he knew God was with him, giving him strength to play his best.
“That was always my prayer,” he said. “Jesus wants me to try to lead by example on the field. I try to have high character and be a godly person. I try to hold myself to a standard. I try to act the way I am supposed to and the way I was raised.”
He was raised by his parents Darrick and Jodi Castronova in a pastor’s home. Darrick Castronova is pastor of The Well, a Southern Baptist Church in Buffalo. Sam Castronova’s uncle Jamie George is pastor of Journey Church in Brentwood.
Sam lived in Franklin when his father and uncle planted the church. Darrick was a youth pastor in Fort Myers, Florida, and Cincinnati before returning to Buffalo where Sam was born.
At The Well, Sam plays bass guitar in the worship band. At the McKenzie church he attends Overflow, a church with Baptist beliefs, he ministers to students. At Journey he directs parking.
He has been on mission trips to Nicaragua, Brazil, Guatemala and twice to Haiti. His 12-year old brother Isaac is adopted from Haiti. Sam’s biological sister Savannah is a freshman at Belmont. His brother Korey, 3, and sister Chari, 5, are adopted and both from Buffalo.
“My family bond means a lot to me. Their support has been overflowing. It’s been awesome. I have two of the best parents you could ask for,” said Sam. “They showed me how to do things the right way.”
Sam was 5 when he accepted Christ as savior.
“I remember being called and acting in obedience, to what I felt going on at the time,” he said.
Sam was 19 when he was baptized at The Well by his father.
“I never got baptized until I felt like I was mature enough but I came to the point where I realized I’ll never be perfect. We all make mistakes. I make plenty of mistakes. Jesus forgives you. His mercies are new every day. I have been learning every day. You have to be strong in your faith,” he said.
At Bethel, Castronova was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
His mother gave him a journal which he uses daily. He reads devotionals, the Bible and prays daily.
As teammates seek to learn more about Jesus, they have asked him questions which he has tried his best to answer.
“In today’s culture it’s harder for young Christians to try to be faithful in everything,” he said. “You’ve got to surround yourself with those that have the same vision as you to be successful just as you want yourself to be successful.”
Castronova uses his success in sports as a platform. “Through sports God has given me a gateway to share His love,” he said.
At Erie Community College, where he started his college career, Castronova, “would bring three or four players to church or home. It impacted their lives,” he said. “I stay in contact with them. They are like my brothers. If anybody needs anything, they know I’m a phone call away.”
Castronova isn’t sure where the future will take him, but he’s trusting God with the details.
“The Bible is teaching me in God’s plans and that His ways are higher than our ways,” he said. “If football works out, then I’ll know that is what He wanted. If not, then I know He has something better planned.” B&R