SEC notebook: Caldwell leaves media in stitches

Vanderbilt interim head coach Robbie Caldwell during day two of SEC Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala., Thursday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 5:36 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — After all this serious and somber talk about agents and NCAA investigations, the mood at SEC Media Days was lightened considerably Thursday by a refreshing and humorous blast of good, old-fashioned homespun country air.

New Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell practically charmed the socks off the media with the tales he spun about growing up in tiny Pageland, S.C., and now having the opportunity to be a head coach after being a life-long assistant for more than 30 years.

Caldwell held a captive (and laughing) audience for the 45 minutes he was on the podium. He was so genuine, so funny (and so different form the other head coaches) that he draw applause from the media when he finished. That's probably a first in SEC Media Days history.

In less than an hour, Caldwell went from a complete unknown to possibly the most popular coach in the SEC (with the media, at least).

He came here as such an unknown, he said someone gave him a tip when he held the door open for him at a restaurant Wednesday night.

"Oh, man, I got a dollar and a half. I gave it back to him," Caldwell said. "I thought it was pretty good. He just gave me the change he had left. I thought that was pretty good.

"I wish I knew the name of the restaurant here. Golly, it was fantastic. By the way, I ate quail. I kept my heritage there. It was pretty neat."

With a warm, friendly Southern drawl, Caldwell sounds a lot like Bobby Bowden. But it's doubtful Bobby has ever been this funny.

Here are some Caldwell highlights:

* On his work ethic — "All I know how to do is work. I grew up in it. I've been a worker all my life. My wife said, 'You can't talk about anything but football.' I can. I can talk about pouring concrete, farming, being a pipe-fitter, working on a turkey farm. Those are the things I did prior to getting into football. That's the God's truth."

* On whether the other coaches have welcomed him — "No, not a one. No offense to them, but they don't know me. They will."

* On whether he will continue to enforce Bobby Johnson's no profanity policy — "You know, I'm no angel, that's for certain. You know, it's a sign of limited vocabulary sometimes. I know ya'll can't tell it, but I have an education."

* On growing up in Pageland, S.C. — "You had to like watermelon, No. 1, because it was the watermelon capitol of the world, 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 all played sports to get out of work. ... 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. Best job I ever had, got paid by the hour for the first time."

* Describing his personality — "Well, I'm from New York originally, you can tell by the way I talk. No, obviously, I'm a country boy. I enjoy my roots. I'm not an angel. I've got my faults. My wife will tell you. Just ask her. She'll school you up on it."

* When asked if his duties on the turkey farm affected his ability to enjoy Thanksgiving, Caldwell stepped from behind the podium and opened his jacket, revealing his considerable girth — "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 lipstick right there, oh my goodness, because I de-beaked, blood tested, vaccinated. I done it all."

* More on working on the turkey farm — "A domestic turkey is the dumbest thing. We had to put sprinklers out there to keep them from smothering in the summer. If you don't believe it, research it. I guess it's why I worked so well with them."

* On whether there was a cultural difference when he went to Vandy — "I think it was a big adjustment for Vanderbilt with my culture. I try to give them a little flavor."

* On his job on the inseminating crew on the turkey farm — "It fertilizes the egg so they can produce a better turkey. It's an interesting process. I'd be glad to show you some time."

Bye, bye 'Bama

Unlike six other teams on the Alabama schedule, Arkansas does not have a bye week before playing the Tide. The Hogs have one the week after.

"We messed that up, didn't we," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said.

Petrino said those six teams will benefit from an extra week to prepare for the Tide.

"You get to take a breather," he said. "You get to spend probably three extra practices preparing for your opponent, extra video time. There's no question there's an advantage coming off a bye."

Lots of pool time for Mallett

While recovering from his foot surgery in the spring, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett has spent many long hours in the pool this season for conditioning work.

"Yeah, I feel like I'm going to try out for the Olympics in 2014. Is that when the next one is?" he said. "I'm going to give it a shot.

"I've been doing a lot of swimming to stay in condition. I haven't been able to run to this point, so I've been swimming a lot, doing a lot of weight room stuff with upper body. It's really helped me out."

No respect for those Hog WRs

Although Arkansas may have the best set of wide receivers in the SEC, the Razorbacks didn't place a single wide receiver on the coaches' preseason All-SEC team.

"I know our receivers will take it personal," Petrino said. "They're very motivated. They think they're a good group. They think they're good as individuals. It will be a great motivating factor for them."

Garcia finally getting it?

The early word out of Columbia is that South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, who has been an almost endless source of frustration for Steve Spurrier, is finally putting in the extra work this summer to prepare for the season.

"I'm his roommate and I've seen a huge change," fullback Patrick DiMarco said. "He's matured a lot. He's busting his butt, putting in the extra effort, working on his own with the receivers this summer, things that I haven't seen before. Hopefully, that will translate on the field."

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