Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Fatherhood Is the Greatest Inspiration for Giants Linebacker and Defensive Captain Jonathan Casillas

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Fatherhood Is the Greatest Inspiration for Giants Linebacker and Defensive Captain Jonathan Casillas

Article excerpt

"Each moment that I have with her rivals that of when I held the [Vince Lombardi] trophy - every single moment with her."

Jonathan Casillas

On spending time with his daughter

New York Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas has experienced plenty of emotional moments in his 30 years, most of which he will never forget.

Some of those he would rather not live through again, like the time as a sophomore in high school when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle, the collision resulting in his crashing into the vehicle's windshield.

But there were so many others, including those in his previous eight NFL seasons as an undrafted linebacker born and raised in New Jersey, that have shaped the man he has become.

The two Super Bowl rings he won with the New Orleans Saints (XLIV) and the New England Patriots (XLIX) provided incredible thrills. A kid from Jersey City and New Brunswick who wasn't even supposed to make it in the league reached the pinnacle not once, but twice.

None of that would compare to the pride Casillas felt in a North Jersey classroom two weeks ago. Instead of being with the Giants for their final voluntary organized team activity (OTA) practice, he was at the kindergarten graduation for his 5-year-old daughter, Jade.

From the moment the music for the ceremony started to play, Casillas' eyes welled up.

"That one, man," Casillas told The Record and NorthJersey.com after practice this week, taking a quiet moment to share his love and adoration for Jade and her latest exploits, including her first medal in Jiu-Jitsu competition and her performance at graduation.

"Of the special moments that have happened in my life, up there with those two Super Bowls, is the birth of my daughter," said Casillas, who turned 30 on June 3. "Each moment that I have with her rivals that of when I held the [Vince Lombardi] trophy - every single moment with her - she's such a special little person and never would I have known I'd learn so much from a 5-year-old.

"The true meaning of love and patience, and not just me being patient with her, but being patient with others because I see her patience and how she cares about others. She's taught me so much, and it's crazy because she's a sixth of my age."

Jade was born in Louisiana when Casillas played for the Saints. He ended up moving on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then was traded to the Patriots before, as a free agent, he decided to return to the Garden State and sign with the Giants.

One of the biggest benefits of joining Big Blue: getting the chance to be closer to Jade, who at the time lived in North Jersey - and still does - with her mother.

"It's hard to find that balance, and I think that's the thing I struggle with most," said Casillas, who shares custody of Jade with her mother. "I found myself a little bit this offseason struggling with the amount of time that I want to spend with her, which is all the time, and I think that just has to be me doing a better job planning, creating extra time. …

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