Braden Castleberry-Taylor to play football at University of Puget Sound

Work on the football field and in the weight room, along with his dedication in the classroom, has paid off for Braden Castleberry-Taylor.

The Aberdeen senior will graduate with a 4.0 grade point average, will speak to his class as the valedictorian and will collect his fair share of awards and scholarships.

However, before he walks at Stewart Field on Friday at the Aberdeen High School graduation, Castleberry-Taylor secured his football career for the next four years by signing a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma this fall.

“I want to make (the Loggers) better, help lead them to atop the league,” Castleberry-Taylor said. “There is a big freshman class coming in and it is a very good class. I know some of the guys from camps and other competitions, so I just want to get better.

“For myself (in the classroom), I want to keep up the good grades, learn a lot and get the skills I need to become a teacher.”

Academically, Castleberry-Taylor secured the vast majority of school tuition and expenses through scholarships and financial aid to attend UPS. The school and local aid lightened his financial load, allowing him to concentrate on school and athletics and playing a big part in deciding to attend the private liberal arts college in Tacoma.

He received some interest from Lewis &Clark College, Whitworth University and Eastern Washington University as well, but the financial aid and scholarships offered to him at UPS drew him in.

Castleberry-Taylor had a record-setting senior season at Aberdeen, hauling in 61 catches for 787 yards — both new school records. The Bobcats struggled to find their form as a team in his four years, but Castleberry-Taylor was a consistent offensive and defensive threat as a tight end, linebacker and defensive end.

For the Loggers, Castleberry-Taylor will play as a tight end to start. The school, which started talking to him during his sophomore year, recruited him as a linebacker/defensive end, but are comfortable with him at tight end, he noted.

“They are a big passing team, so there will be a lot of chances to get the ball,” Castleberry-Taylor said. “I already have all of their workouts and I’m in a chat with all of the offensive linemen and tight ends to get to know each other. They are very big on workouts, how we are eating, emphasizing our diet to stay strong. They even want pictures of what we’re eating, to make sure we’re eating right.”

He added that he may also compete in track and field in the spring to keep in shape, with the blessing of the football coaches. His senior track season at Aberdeen was successful, except for one result that ended his high school career one week away from the state meet.

“I was just 8 inches short in the shot (to qualifying for state),” Castleberry-Taylor said. “After this year, since I had some success in the shot put, I might try out for track. that will keep me in shape and it is something the coaches are big on — being multi-sport athletes.”

One of the big selling points for Castleberry-Taylor to go to UPS was the program’s culture, which he compared favorably with Aberdeen’s program.

“They are big on teamwork, big on being a family and taking care of each other, like we are here at Aberdeen,” he added. “(I know that) the coaches and teammates are your second family. I know the coaches and teammates here are always here for you when need them. They have your back. It is a good, similar atmosphere there with what is here.”

Academically, Castleberry-Taylor said that he will major in science and minor in physical education to prepare for becoming a teacher. He plans on returning to Aberdeen to teach and coach. Also, the close proximity of the campus to family and friends on the Harbor played a big part to choosing UPS.

“I can see my buddies play and coaches and family can come up and see me play,” Castleberry-Taylor said. “After school, I want to come back here and help the community that got me to where I am today.”