INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Castonzo seeks victory single every snap he lines up for, regardless of what's at stake, his team's record or its opponent.
Since he came into the league as the Indianapolis Colts' first-round (22nd-overall) selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, the durable and dependable starting left tackle and seven-year veteran has only missed three games, all due to right knee injury two years ago. And by the end of the 2017 season, Castonzo, the senior member of the Colts' offensive line, has a chance to go the entire season without missing an entire offensive snap at one of the most demanding positions on the field.
As the Colts prepare to close out a regular season that has not gone according to plan — fraught with near-misses and an inability to close out games — Castonzo said nothing changes in his approach with little more than simple pride on the line.
"You grow up playing to win," he said. "And if you're going out there and you're not going out to win you might as well not go out there at all. That's the motivation. I love winning.
"In your career, you really cherish those moments after wins in the locker room, and I don't care when they come, what your record is – when you get a win, you feel good," Castonzo continued. "We want to have at least a couple of those good feelings at the end of the season here, hopefully."
The 6-foot-7, 311-pound lineman has certainly earned a great deal of respect in 2017, even if under the radar, after a season of facing some of the best the game has to offer.
Of the initial list of Pro Bowl players announced on Dec. 19, Castonzo will have gone up against all three AFC outside linebackers: Jadaveon Clowney of the Houston Texans (twice), Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens and Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, though Miller oftentimes lines up on the opposite side of the line from Castonzo.
Castonzo has also faced the two 2017 Pro Bowl defensive ends that lead their respective conferences in sacks: Calais Campbell of the Jacksonville Jaguars (twice) and the Arizona Cardinals' Chandler Jones.
The result? Castonzo, according to Pro Football Focus, allowed just three quarterback hits and 28 total pressures through Week 14, and entered the Colts' Week 16 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens as PFF's 12th-ranked tackle in the NFL.
Colts head Coach Pagano certainly appreciates what his left tackle provides week in and week out in meetings, in the weight room, during practice and in games against the NFL's elite pass rushers and top defenses.
"He's a leader by example," Pagano said. "He's a great pro, and he's a great teammate and a really good football player. He comes to work every single day, hardhat, lunch pail. Knows what to do. Very rarely makes a mental error. Again, he's got to block the best of the best in the National Football League."
A prime example would be Castonzo's performance in the near upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers — and their top-five overall defense — on Nov. 12 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
According to PFF, Castonzo graded out at 87.4 out of 100 during the contest. That week he was named to the PFF's "Team of the Week" after allowing only a single quarterback hurry against a team known for its constant pressure.
"I thought he was again solid the other day against Pittsburgh," Colts assistant head coach and offensive line coach Joe Philbin said in November during the team's bye week. "I think his run blocking is underrated…he's playing good football."
Already living up to his four-year contract extension earned prior to the 2015 season, Castonzo has also earned the approval of first-year Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who praised the left tackle before the 2017 season even began by saying, "Castonzo has been (playing) really, I think the best in his career at this point."
But don't tell that to Castonzo. While he can take pride in his performance this season, things simply haven't gone the Colts' way, and that's what's most important.
But one thing's for sure: you know he will continue to put in the necessary work to finish this year strong and lead into a fresh 2018 offseason.
"I'm just trying to contribute to the team and get wins," Castonzo said. "If I'm playing my best ball and we don't get the win, obviously there's something else I could've done. If you pancake your guy on every play they're going to run off you and you're going to get yards. There's always something more you can do."