Greenback soccer star nets college dream

Greenback School’s Colton Casto signs his letter of intent Friday to play soccer at Tennessee Wesleyan University. He is joined, from left, by Greenback head soccer coach Rob Fox, father David Casto and mother Charlene Casto.

Greenback School’s Colton Casto will continue soccer at the next level after signing his letter of intent Friday with the Tennessee Wesleyan University Bulldogs.

Casto is the first Greenback boys soccer player to sign with a college.

“I just feel like the whole thing, just starting out so young and getting to the point now where I’m able to still keep playing ... and now that I’m taking it to the next level, it just means all of the world to me,” Casto said. “Just realizing this is the last year of Greenback soccer for me, and I made really big connections with this team and all the guys.”

Casto started playing soccer at 4 years old but wasn’t able to play for a school until three years ago when Greenback started its boys team.

He took several years off from playing in middle school and had to relearn everything in his first two seasons as a Cherokee.

“I played for rec league and when I actually came to middle school, I took a break for a couple of years, I didn’t play and I started back my sophomore year at Greenback,” Casto said. “I definitely was really rusty, didn’t have a lot of foot skill, and it was kind of a struggle getting back in the groove. Just constantly working outside of practice, it was all starting to come back and all of that.”

Readjusting was not easy, but Casto’s hard work and perseverance paid off.

“He’s just got an energy level that’s hard to duplicate, and I’ve talked to his dad and I’ve talked to him about, you know, from where I sit, what it takes to be successful at the college level is that heart,” Rob Fox, Greenback boys soccer coach, said. “The difference maker is in here, and if you’ve got that, that’s what makes the difference. I think with Colton, that’s his thing. You ask him to go run gassers, he’ll go to the front of the row every time, and he’s back-and-forth as fast as he can go until he runs himself into the ground.”

Fox knew Casto was a special talent but admits it took time to develop in high school.

“Oh, he’s gotten so much more talented, you know, his first year, he had that same go-get-it attitude but he didn’t have any skills, so he was bouncing all over the place, flying back and forth across the field but lose the ball,” Fox said. “He’s gotten to a point now where he can control the ball much more better. He’s developing fast. I mean, just the difference between last year and this year has been huge. He got involved with some offseason club training, so that’s obviously helped quite a bit. His skill on the ball has really improved.”

His decision to sign with Tennessee Wesleyan came down to finding the right fit athletically and academically.

“I had a lot of colleges in mind, but Tennessee Wesleyan was the biggest one because for one, it’s close to home and I like that about it, and plus I just really like the team,” he said. “I like the idea of having a bunch of foreign guys on the team, learning about cultures and stuff, learning about them and what they’re doing. I think it’ll be pretty cool for me to do that, you know, something new.”

Casto will spend his first season on the developmental team and is projected to play defense for the Bulldogs.

“He is really talented at the midfield for us right now, and I project that maybe he’ll end up as a defensive-type position at the college level, so I could see him as an outside back at Tennessee Wesleyan because he’s got a lot of speed, he’s quick, he’s athletic,” Fox said.

“I mentioned his ball skills are very good. It’s gotten much, much better, but he’s still not at that elite level of ball skill. As an outside back, he’s fine with the ball skill he has. So couple that with his speed, his aggressiveness, his athleticism, he could be a strong outside back.”

Casto will play an integral part this season for the Cherokees as a team captain and is looking forward to continuing to develop before heading to Athens in the fall.

“I’m definitely going to have to start weight training — a lot of weight training — because all the way through high school, I haven’t really done anything with weight training, you know how it is,” he said. “At the next level, I’m going to have to get a little bigger. One thing, I know it’s not skill-wise, but they said they wanted me to get bigger for the season and everything, so definitely adding a lot of weight training and just overall, working on my foot skill, passing, shooting, pretty much getting better at the whole game.”