In case anybody was wondering, Robbie Caldwell’s sense of humor is still intact.
More than two months after he stepped down as Vanderbilt’s head football coach, the 56-year-old has been hired as the offensive line coach at Clemson.
While it has been a wild last few months — beginning with his promotion to head coach last July and ending with his resignation in November — Caldwell put it into perspective like only he could.
“It has been something. As the old saying goes, the Good Lord looks after the fools and children — and I’m not a child,” he quipped. “But I have tried to do right in the business. I do it the right way and work hard. I’ve got a lot of good people out there. ... I just work and am loyal to the people I work for.
"As I have stated before, I am a company man. I want to do what is best for Clemson University. I hope to help them in some way to make them better. I’m looking forward. I’m going to give them everything I got.”
Caldwell’s tenure as head coach at Vanderbilt was brief.
He took over in mid-July after Bobby Johnson resigned shortly before his ninth season. Caldwell had spent the eight previous years with Johnson and the Commodores as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. When he was promoted immediately upon Johnson's departure, he became a head coach for the first time in 33 years of collegiate experience.
Unfortunately for him, the Commodores had posted a 2-10 record in 2009. So when an identical 2-10 season unfolded this past fall, the writing appeared to be on the wall that changes would be made. Caldwell’s stint came to an end when he resigned prior to the last game of the season.
“When I was there, I was hard at work at what I did,” he said. “I’m glad to get the opportunity. One of these days I am going to write a book called Four Months, and it will be fun looking back there. Yes, I would love to have had more time. Yes, I would have loved to do a lot of things. But it is what it is and everybody moves on.”
Caldwell is moving on in a state he knows well — South Carolina. He was born in Pageland, S.C., and went to school and worked at Furman University (from 1978-85) in Greenville, S.C. — just 30 miles from Clemson. He also knows the Atlantic Coast Conference, having coached at North Carolina State (1986-99) and North Carolina (2000-01).
He replaces Brad Scott, who was an assistant at Clemson for 12 years and will now move into an administrative role. The Tigers are coming off back-to-back bowl appearances, and Caldwell said third-year head coach Dabo Swinney has the program on the right track.
“It is a very special situation and this place is going to take off,” Caldwell said. “Clemson has invested in facilities and they are doing a good job there. Their motto is, unlike some [programs] I have been around, if you don’t have a shovel in the ground you are not progressing. I kind of like their attitude.”
Caldwell is ready to get back in the saddle as he said he spent the last couple months at home in Nashville instead of out recruiting. This was not only different for him but for his wife, Nora Lynn.
“The wife is getting tired of you. She is making suggestions. She is not used to you being there and you start interfering with her coaching areas,” Caldwell said laughing.
But he added it was nice to be able to make breakfast and take his teenage daughter Emsley to school every day.
“We got to spend some time together. That is one thing in the coaching business that you do not do is that you don’t get to spend much time with your children, your own children, because you are tending to everyone else’s,” he said. “That is part of the job. You know that and I like that part of it but I dislike the fact that you don’t get to spend as much time with your child. That is where a strong wife comes into play and I have a very special one.”
As for his coaching future, Caldwell wouldn’t mind handling the reins of a program again someday. Right now, though, he is happy being back home.
“I will throw my hat in the ring one day. But that is not what drives me. ... I’m about my family and whatever I am doing I want to be the best at it I possibly can,” he said. “I would love to be a head coach again someday. That was fun. I like it. But I love coaching the offensive line. This is a great, great opportunity.”