2010-11: Robbie Caldwell, a three-decade veteran of the collegiate coaching ranks, became the 26th head coach in Vanderbilt gridiron history on July 14 when he was named by university officials to replace former Commodore mentor and close friend Bobby Johnson.
Caldwell, a native of Pageland, S.C., has served on the Vanderbilt staff since accepting Johnson's offer prior to the 2002 season. Until becoming head coach, Caldwell was assistant head coach and offensive line mentor under Johnson.
This marks the first head coaching position for Caldwell, whose ties with Bobby Johnson and several members of the Commodore staff date back to the mid-1970s.
"I look forward to the challenge of guiding the Vanderbilt football program, and fully understand the task at hand," Caldwell said. "At the same time, I am truly excited about the opportunity to continue building this program just as Bobby Johnson did for the last eight years.
"This staff knows each other, believes in each other, and believes in the players in this program. We'll will work diligently to win football games on the field and mold great citizens off the field. Bobby Johnson and I share those philosophies. Those goals will continue to be my goals as head coach of the Vanderbilt Commodores," Caldwell added.
During his career, Caldwell has coached in 11 postseason bowl games and
has coached six conference-winning squads. Five of his pupils have earned All-America recognition; and seven has been picked in the NFL draft.
The new Commodore head coach has coached some of the top offensive lineman in Vanderbilt history. Caldwell mentored the collegiate career of Chris Williams, who developed from a lanky freshman prospect into a top-caliber player during his five years on the Vanderbilt campus.
Williams earned All-Southeastern Conference honors as a senior tackle in 2007 and started getting serious attention from professional scouts after a strong performance at the 2008 Senior Bowl. Three months later, Williams became the highest Vanderbilt offensive lineman ever taken in the NFL Draft when Chicago made him the No. 14 overall pick. He is expected to start this season for the Bears at left tackle, protecting the blindside of former Commodore signal caller Jay Cutler.
This April, another Caldwell pupil, offensive tackle Thomas Welch, was selected in the seventh round by the New England Patriots.
A third former Commodore lineman, Justin Geisinger, also played several years with NFL squads before leaving the game last year.
Like Johnson and other members of the current staff, Caldwell's football lineage passes through Furman University. His coaching style is influenced by two former Paladin head coaches, Art Baker and Dick Sheridan. As an undersized, overachieving center, Caldwell lettered three years at Furman playing for Baker. As a senior in 1975, he earned Furman's MVP Award as an offensive captain. The following year, he was Baker's graduate assistant at Furman.
Two years later, he began an eight-year tenure as offensive line coach at Furman under Sheridan. During that period, the Paladins won six Southern Conference championships, with Caldwell mentoring eight first-team all-conference players and five recipients of the Jacobs Award given to the league's top offensive lineman.
Caldwell was one of three current Vanderbilt offensive coaches that joined Sheridan when he became head coach at North Carolina State in 1986. Caldwell served 14 years with the Wolfpack, continuing seven years beyond Sheridan's stay on campus.
At North Carolina State, Caldwell tutored the Wolfpack line for 11 years, then added assistant head coaching responsibilities from 1997-99. Fourteen of his North Carolina State pupils were All-Atlantic Coast Conference recipients.
From 2000-01, Caldwell coached the University of North Carolina offensive line. The Tar Heels capped their 2001 season with a victory over Auburn in the Peach Bowl.
Caldwell graduated with a B.S. degree in Health and Physical Education from Furman in 1976.
Caldwell and his wife, Nora Lynn, are the parents of a daughter, Emsley, 15.