Vanderbilt's unlikely new head coach stars at SEC media days
Vanderbilt interim head football coach Robbie Caldwell turned out to be the star of Thursday’s SEC media days.
If the head coaching thing doesn’t work out, Caldwell, 56, could easily find work as a standup comedian. From his opening remarks, the Pageland, S.C. native had the ballroom roaring with laughter, beginning with his arrival home after the abrupt announcement last Wednesday that former coach Bobby Johnson was retiring.
He joked that he’s so unknown he held the door for a man at a restaurant in Birmingham Wednesday night and was handed a tip.
Check out a few of some of Caldwell's best responses from media day:
ON WHAT IT WAS LIKE GROWING UP IN PAGELAND, S.C., AND WHETHER HE'S THE FIRST HEAD COACH?
CALDWELL: Well, that's a great question. On the college level, I guess. You had to like watermelon, number one, because it was the watermelon capitol of the word, we proclaimed anyway. You had to like hunting and fishing. Frog gigging. I was scared to death of girls, so that didn't interest me. And I played ball. We played all sports to get out of work. That was the policy. If you played a sport, you didn't have to work during a practice time. That's why I played basketball. I was probably the worst there's ever been, but I played it so I wouldn't have to go pour concrete. That's a fact, tell you the truth. My first hourly paying job was on the turkey farm. I don't know if I could tell you what my job was, but I was on the inseminating crew. That's a fact. I worked my way to the top. That's a fact, man. If you don't believe it, call Nicolas. Of course, I think they're defunct now. Best job I ever had, got paid by the hour for the first time. That was about '68, '69. That's what we did every afternoon.
ON WHETHER WORKING AT A TURKEY FARM HAS AFFECTED HIS LOVE FOR THANKSGIVING DINNER:
CALDWELL: No, it hasn't. You can tell by looking at me. I done it all, too. If I told some of these ladies, what they put in that lipstick right there, oh, my goodness, because I de-beaked, blood tested, vaccinated. I done it all. It was pretty special.
ON HOW HIS FAMILY REACTED WHEN HE GOT HOME FOLLOWING THE NEWS HE HAD BEEN NAMED THE NEW HEAD COACH:
CALDWELL: My family was in a panic. All they heard was 'retirement.' You know all the speculation that goes on as well as anybody. They were all in an uproar, crying, carrying on. They never heard about the part about me getting to be interim head coach.
When I get home, there's no congratulations. There's a panic. It's, What are we going to do? Are we out of a job? You can imagine how we all settled down and got to celebrate the situation.
ON WHETHER HE'S CONCERNED ABOUT HOW VANDERBILT WILL HANDLE THE DECISION ON HIRING A HEAD COACH IN THE FUTURE:
CALDWELL: I'm just thrilled to have an opportunity. I told my wife, if it's two days or 20 years, I will now be able to say, Hey, I was a head coach one time, other than in 1977 when I was head baseball coach. We were pretty good, by the way. We were 14-2, had a chance, made the state playoffs.
ON WHETHER IT'S A FAIR SITUATION FOR VANDERBILT TO PUT HIM IN:
CALDWELL" Absolutely it's a fair situation. Vanderbilt has given me no stipulations. All they've told me is, We're behind you 100%. I know Vice Chancellor Williams said, You're our coach. We're not out looking for one. You're our coach. All I know how to do is work. I've been a worker all my life. I grew up in it. My wife said, You can't talk about anything but football. I can. I can talk about pouring concrete, farming, being a pipefitter, all those things, working on a turkey farm. But nobody wants to hear that. Those are the things that I did prior to getting into football. That's the God's truth. So I'm extremely excited about what they've presented to me and the efforts they put behind me. I'm just, you know, in place and ready to go.
ON WHETHER HE HAD BEEN WELCOMED BY THE OTHER SEC COACHES:
CALDWELL: No. I got asked on the radio, they said, What about all the coaches, have they congratulated you? I said, No, not a one. No offense to them, but they don't know me. They will. I got to see Coach Spurrier today, Coach Richt. They have no idea who I am. Coach Spurrier does. We have a little relationship. He's a guy I admire a great deal. I appreciate that.
ON WHETHER IT'S A NO-LOSE SITUATION FOR HIM AND THE STAFF:
CALDWELL: Well, that's kind of the way I look at it. I mean, think about it. Here I am, I go from lining the field to I'm head coach in the SEC. I'm telling you, what a thrill. It's a dream. I can still walk in places and nobody knows me. Last night I was opening the door for people and they gave me a tip. I thought, hey, that's great. How can you get it any better than that?
ON HOW HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH FORMER COACH DICK SHERIDAN HAS INFLUENCED HIM:
CALDWELL: It's ingrained deeply. You know. . . As a matter of fact, when Coach Sheridan offered me the job, I turned it down originally because I had given Buddy Jennings, who I admire deeply, my word, I was going from Hanahan High School to Chester, be 50 miles closer to home and make $3,500 more. When I took a pay cut to go to Furman as a full-time assistant, my daddy said, You're an idiot. I've continued to live up to his words, I'm sure (smiling). But the rest is history.