Caldwell Reveals His Secret Plan

Antoine Caldwell does well in just about everything he tries. After he decided on his immediate football future last Saturday he did an excellent job of keeping it a secret. Only his parents, his head football coach, and his teammate and roommate B.J. Stabler knew Antoine's plan prior to Monday afternoon.

Alabama junior offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell announced Monday that he will return to the Crimson Tide football team for his senior season. Caldwell, who has already earned his undergraduate degree, made the announcement at a press conference at the Naylor Stone Media Suite on the UA campus.

Caldwell caught most off guard with his announcement. The general consensus was that because he had called a press conference, he was probably going to leave early for the opportunity to play in the National Football League. Then when he went through a litany of those to thank for his time at Alabama, it seemed certain he would announce he was leaving.

Instead, Caldwell said, "I've decided the best decision for me and my family is to stay for my senior season at The University of Alabama. It was long, hard decision that was thought through with countless prayers and countless nights of countless conversations with very informed people, very influential people."

Caldwell said his decision came after many hours of consultation with his parents, Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban and Offensive Line Coach Joe Pendry. lHe also discussed the situation with several former Alabama players now in the NFL, including Cornelius Griffin.

Saban was pleased with Caldwell's decision and called it a victory for college football.

"First of all, we are very pleased and happy that Antoine is going to come back for his senior season," Saban said. "There are several things to be noted here. I think this is a great victory for college football, in that we have a fine young man, who has tremendous leadership qualities, who thinks of his teammates and the legacy he can create for himself. I think that's probably the key thing here, relative to Antoine's decision. He can develop another year here as a player with a very good (offensive line coach) and staff.

"He can actually enhance himself to the NFL and make improvements that will enhance his ability to get drafted higher. I think the decision came down in his heart that he wanted to be a part of this team. He wanted to affect this team. He has been elected captain. I think he is an outstanding player. I think he would achieve and will achieve tremendous accolades in the future here, relative to creating a legacy as not only being a captain but possibly a guy that can make All-American and should make All-American."

Saban and Pendry came off the road where they were recruiting to be on hand for Caldwell's announcement.

Caldwell said that his parents were the biggest influence in the decision. He said they joined others in telling him to do what would be most comfortable for him, to not think about the decision in terms of money. "They all said if the money was going to be there, it would be there next year," Antoine said. "I've been poor for 21 years. Another 10 or 12 months isn't going to matter."

Caldwell said that the NFL considers him a "center-guard" and told him that his ability to play more than one offensive line position was an asset. He said the information he had was that he would have been drafted "as high as the third round."

Caldwell said one of the few bad things that has occurred in his Alabama career had an influence on his decision to return. He was suspended for four games last fall as one of five Alabama players involved in improper receipt of textbooks. He said that if NFL scouts wanted to see Caldwell against the best competition, when they turned on the tapes of Alabama games against teams like LSU and Tennessee "I wasn't there."

He said that his family is very spiritual and believes that everything happens for a reason, "including the textbook thing."

Caldwell said, "I felt like staying my senior would give me the best possible chance at the NFL. I feel like the most important thing is to stay here and have another year to grow and be around influential people like Coach Saban and Coach Pendry that know the business and know the NFL.

"The thing that was the most important to me outside of all of that was my teammates. I feel like the bond we have here is incredible and I don't want to exchange that for any amount of money."

Another factor was Senior Day. At the last home game of the year, each senior player is introduced with his family. "You can't get that back," he said.

He said he would get an insurance policy "just for peace of mind, but I'm not going to dwell on that." And he said he would begin a master's degree in an area of business related to real estate. He worked for Advantage Realty in Northport last summer and enjoyed the experience, he said.

He said the first order of business is to get back in the weight room. He said that would be important in continuing to improve himself. "I'm going to live in the weight room," he said.

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