The last year has been a whirlwind for Sam Castronova. The Williamsville South graduate did everything he could to land on the radar of teams in the NFL, Canadian Football League and XFL. Pro days, combines, local days - Castronova did whatever he could to land a pro contract after a record-setting season at NAIA Bethel University.
When those opportunities didn't materialize, Castronova tried to stay positive.
"It’s alright. Things happen," he says. "God’s got a plan. I know how I was, and I know I was right there with those guys. If I ever get the opportunity, I’ll show what I can do."
Castronova attended an XFL Summer Showcase in Washington D.C. last summer and heard positive reviews. His agent had heard that of the six quarterbacks there, Castronova was considered a top-three prospect. When four quarterbacks were drafted, and Castronova wasn't one of them, he turned his focus towards the National Arena League's Carolina Cobras in October - he already had an in thanks to Vinny Gregory, an old friend who signed about two weeks beforehand.
"I told them right away – I got a great quarterback," Gregory says. "I know he can throw the ball. Especially in arena, he’ll be a great fit. I told them. He has all the accolades to get signed, so once I introduced them to Sam, they jumped right on it."
"Vinny put the word in for me, and the coach saw me throwing to him on our junior-college film," says Castronova, who played at Erie Community College for two seasons alongside Gregory. "Coach [Anthony Payton] called me two, three days later. We talked, I sent him some film of me and Vinny working out, and he signed me the next day."
The National Arena League has delayed its schedule while the Coronavirus pandemic continues - if training camp starts on-schedule, Castronova will be one of the first players in Greensboro.
"It was definitely a blessing," says Castronova about getting his first pro deal. "Definitely a blessing for hard work paying off. I’m excited if we ever get down there."
Until Castronova gets that call, he's spending his time the way most of us are - visiting family who live locally, and playing video games.