A lot of people told Anthony Castonzo to think realistically, to accept early on that his best might not be good enough for the NFL.
Yet even when colleges didn't think Castonzo was good enough to play on Saturdays, he didn't let go of his dream of playing on Sundays.
Now Castonzo is on the verge of being a first-round NFL draft pick, possibly as the first offensive linemen selected.
"Growing up I heard from a lot of people telling me, 'Don't set your sights on the NFL because you might be heartbroken.' But I've always thought, 'Why not shoot for the stars?'" Castonzo said. "I've always desired to be the best, and regardless of what anyone says, it's what I'm going to try and do."
It looked like those warning Castonzo to not get his hopes up knew what they were talking about as he approached graduation from Lake Zurich (Ill.) High School. He had a solid prep career, but it appeared that it might be the end of the line for his NFL dream.
"I had zero scholarship offers out of high school," Castonzo said. "I was a 6-7, 220 pound drink of water. Every school that I talked to said
'We don't think you're going to get big enough,' so I went to Fork Union Military Academy and got big enough. I gained about 25 pounds in one semester basically. I developed."
Following a standout season at Fork Union, Castonzo accepted a scholarship offer from Boston College, and he blossomed right away. He became the first true freshman to start up front for the Eagles in a decade, and after starting every game at right tackle, he shifted to left tackle before his sophomore season.
When all was said and done, Castonzo had made a school-record 54 starts, and he had NFL talent evaluators drooling over the pro potential of the 6-7, 311-pounder.
Still, Castonzo isn't one to rest on his laurels.
"I'm not really satisfied. My goal is to be better," he said. "I eventually want to be the best. I feel like no matter how good I am, I can always
"I've always been in my bedroom doing kick steps, in the hallway doing kick steps, constantly thinking about the game. I think that's what sets me apart - almost an obsession with being the best."
Castonzo also is among the best in the classroom. An Illinois State Scholar in high school and a Rhodes Scholarship nominee at Boston College, Castonzo majored in biochemistry and hopes to someday contribute to cancer research.
For now, Castonzo believes his intelligence will transfer to his day job.
"I think it's huge, because you've got to be able to understand not just what you're doing on a play but also how the play works out
as a scheme because defenses aren't stationary," Castonzo said. "They're constantly moving around, so you've got to know how you're going to react to how they're going to react. It's almost like a chess game, just trying to stay one step ahead."
There's little doubt that Castonzo is more than a step ahead of those who once doubted him.
"My goal is to be the best. If that comes earlier rather than later that's better. I'd like to start as soon as possible," he said. "I feel like I've definitely prepared myself for the NFL."