Tony Casillas covered the gamut of football accomplishments during his illustrious career.
The former Cowboys nose tackle did it all – from winning a college football championship with Oklahoma to being a top five NFL draft pick, to claiming two Super Bowls with Dallas.
Tonight, Casillas will be on hand to fulfill another football dream -- though this time it's someone else's, -- when he announces the Cowboys' second round pick of the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall.
"It's a huge honor," Casillas said. "It'll be a great experience to be there and see a young man's dream come true."
Casillas, an All-American as a Sooner, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, going to the Atlanta Falcons. Interestingly enough, in this era when 20 or more of the top prospects in the draft are invited to the proceedings, Casillas never had that opportunity.
"The thing about is I never was invited. Back when I was selected they didn't' invite us to the draft," he said. "Pete Rozell read the name off the paper, and you were all dressed up with no place to go. So it's a different experience now."
On top of his draft duties, Casillas has spent his time in New York City to help further the cause of Head's Up Football, a USA Football program that is partially funded by a $1.5 million grant from the NFL Foundation, chaired by Cowboys executive vice president Charlotte Jones Anderson. The Head's Up program is designed to improve football safety by providing education and teaching resources for coaches, players and parents. Heads Up brought Casillas on board as a Player Ambassador after his years of work in youth football in the Dallas area.
"USA Football provided this program, backed by the NFL. I was selected as one of the ambassadors in the Dallas area," Casillas said. "I've always had a passion for youth football, and this had a focus on what I like to focus on – player safety and certified coaches."
With player safety becoming a paramount issue in the world of football, Casillas said programs like Heads Up Football can help ease people's minds about the dangers of the sport. [embedded_ad]
"With all publicity this issue is getting, I think that makes parents apprehensive about putting their kids in football," he said. "We just want to make sure the coaches are certified and trained and can recognize safety concerns."
Since USA Football launched the Heads Up program, more than 900 youth football leagues comprising more than 200,000 players and 30,000 coaches have adopted it to improve player safety.
Casillas added: "If your daughter or son plays piano, or anything like that, you want to know the coach or teacher and make sure you know what they're doing. Football is the same way, and I think the NFL realized that, and I'm 100% behind that."
Heads Up has been a part of the NFL draft festivities this week, as Heads Up officials and ambassadors came together with current and former NFL players to teach safe football skills as part of the league's NFL Play 60 youth health and fitness campaign.
"We're teaching kids the fundamentals and to be safe. That way they get better technique-wise and more confident, and the parents feel more confident and they're not prone to worry so much," Casillas said. "Football is what it is – it's a rough sport, but if you learn the fundamentals and learn it correctly you can make it a safer and more enjoyable game."