A shoulder injury cost the 6-5, 275-pound Caldwell his redshirt freshman year in 2001. Caldwell was then caught in a numbers game at tight end, working behind the likes of Ben Hartsock, Ryan Hamby and, last year, Louis Irizarry.
With his fifth and final season approaching, Caldwell's career took a turn -- and it appears to be for the better.
He has been moved to defensive end, where he has a chance to crack the two-deep. In fact, during Monday's practice he worked with the second team behind starter Simon Fraser.
"I never doubted my ability, but I did doubt the amount of time I was going to get out there because we have so many good tight ends," Caldwell said. "I just wondered whether I would be able to contribute."
Caldwell, who played just two years of high school ball at Mentor, Ohio, went through spring football with the Buckeyes as a tight end. It was over the summer that he was approached about moving to defense.
"I went to East Asia on a mission's trip with Athletes In Action," he said. "We were there sharing the gospel. Joel Penton and I were over there for about a month.
"I was shocked. I couldn't use my cellphone when I was over there. Ryan Hamby actually called me and said, `Man, I heard some things.' He left a message. I'm like, `I better meet with Coach.'
"The day I got back, I went to meet with (tight ends coach John) Peterson. He was like, `Well, we're moving you to defense.' I was like, `What's going on here?' " Caldwell said, laughing. "I just said, `OK, let's go.' "
The move seems to be working for all parties concerned. Caldwell came up big in Saturday's jersey scrimmage, notching a sack and showing good aptitude for his new position.
"I love playing defense," he said. "I'm having a great time, using my athleticism to just get off the ball and go."
Caldwell is learning more about the end position every day. He figured he had nothing to lose by making the switch.
"I don't think I was going to get in at tight end, so I might as well go play over there on defense," he said. "I think I still haven't taken to it. I think I can use my athleticism to beat some bigger guys. But I'm still learning technique every day. I'm learning on how to get their hands off me.
"I love that I can just go make a play. I had never played defense before, not in high school not ever. I've never seen the defensive side of the ball. At tight end, you had to step right and use your hands. On defense, they're like, `Cut loose and make a play and have a good time.' I love that part."
Defensive line coach Jim Heacock has some young players in the pipeline. But with Caldwell he gets a man-sized player who wants, more than anything else, to contribute this year.
"He's shown me a great attitude," Heacock said. "He does have some pass rush abilities. If you look at his weight, he's 275 pounds. He has come on. He is a senior looking for a role on our football team. He‘s a defensive end and with people throwing the football the way they are, maybe he has a senior year where he comes in and makes a couple sacks and gets a little confidence and he could help us with some depth.
"This is his last shot, but he's never really contributed a whole lot at Ohio State. He's been on a scholarship, but he's never really had an opportunity to contribute a lot. Now, all of a sudden, maybe he's in a position to help us out a little bit. I think he's excited about it. I see a different kid out there. I've seen it before. A few years ago, David Thompson was a kid who had not played a whole lot. But his senior year, all of a sudden, he comes on. As a senior, there is sometimes a little pressure on you to excel."