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Second senior day walk for Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields will be special

Castro-Fields took part in senior day last year but later chose to return for a fifth season. He will be accompanied Saturday by his mother and his grandmother, whom he calls "my rock."

Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields (5) breaks up a pass intended for Illinois wide receiver Casey Washington on Oct. 23.
Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields (5) breaks up a pass intended for Illinois wide receiver Casey Washington on Oct. 23.Read moreBarry Reeger / AP

Tariq Castro-Fields will take part in his second senior day in as many years Saturday at Penn State, one that is more special for him on a few levels.

Following an injury-filled 2020 season that limited him to three games, the Nittany Lions cornerback opted to come back for a fifth year allowed by the NCAA because of the pandemic. He has made all 10 starts to date and is part of an experienced secondary that is ranked 10th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Castro-Fields’ play this season also has attracted the attention of NFL scouts, and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the No. 9 cornerback among players expected to come out.

However, the most memorable moment of the 2021 season for the resident of Upper Marlboro, Md., will come before the game against Rutgers when he will run out of the South tunnel at Beaver Stadium and be greeted by his grandmother and his mother, both of whom came to the United States from the Philippines.

“That’s going to be super-special,” Castro-Fields said Wednesday. “My grandma … just for her to be out there and for her to kind of share this last memory of Beaver Stadium with me means the absolute world to me. So I think it’s gonna be a special day.

“She means the world. She’s my rock. When I think I’ve got problems going on, I always remember her and everything she did for our family, coming over from the Philippines, just little things like that. She means a lot to me. I got to see her [two weeks ago] at Maryland and I get to see her again, so I’m happy.”

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Erlinda Castro, his mother, has the same first name as his grandmother. Castro-Fields said his grandmother immigrated when she was 50, and his mother when she was 27. He did not give their current ages.

Castro-Fields said he grew particularly close to his grandmother last year when he lived with her during the COVID-19 shutdown.

“In college, when I wake up I’m worried about what I’m going to eat,” he said. “But when I was at home, my grandma’s there and she’s like, ‘What do you want for breakfast?’ or ‘Do you want lunch?’ That probably was my highlight and just sitting there watching TV with her, going on walks, just doing little things like that. It brightens my day just being around her. I love her a lot.

“She’s my favorite person in the world just because she humbles me and brings me back down to earth when I need it. Just talking to her, life becomes so simple and it’s not chaotic and things like that. She definitely brings peace to me for sure.”

When Castro-Fields took part in last year’s senior day, before a crowd of only family members, he was uncertain about his future. He and other Penn State upperclassmen, such as wide receiver Jahan Dotson and safety Jaquan Brisker, were not satisfied with a 4-5 record to show for the 2020 season. At a FaceTime session during the winter, they all decided to return for another season rather than make their mark in the NFL draft.

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“You only go to college once,” said Castro-Fields, who was third-team All-Big Ten in 2019. “I’m super happy about my decision. The season has been filled with ups and downs. But at the end of the day, just to play with my brothers and actually play this year and be healthy and contribute has been an amazing experience for me.”

Saturday’s game against Rutgers will mark the 51st career game and 28th start for Castro-Fields. His stats include 133 tackles, 25 passes broken up, three interceptions, and 10 tackles for losses. He leads this year’s team with six pass breakups and ranks ninth with 29 tackles.

Looking ahead to his final home game, he described his journey as “amazing.” It’s not over yet; the NFL is sure to come calling after he completes his college career, but he likes what he has accomplished.

“It took a lot to get here and I wouldn’t pick any other place in the world to play football and get a degree and fellowship with my brothers and things like that,” Castro-Fields said. “This was an amazing opportunity and I always appreciate coach [James] Franklin for allowing me to be here — and even be here this long.”