The call went out for Spider.
There would be no group photo of the former players without longtime PSU equipment manager Brad Spider Caldwell in the shot. Sitting at a table with his wife, Karen, Caldwell heard the call and hustled up to join the lettermen on the dance floor.
The diminutive Caldwell — who was born with scoliosis (and without parts of a shoulder blade and several ribs) — could not have looked more at home standing front and center among the hulking ex-gridders.
He has been that much a part of the program since arriving at Penn State as a student in the early 1980s and eventually becoming Joe Paterno's head equipment manager in 1986. Caldwell has held the position since, and has served as the one significant common link on the staff (and in the locker room) for the players as they went through the wild head coaching transition from Paterno to Tom Bradley to Bill O'Brien to Larry Johnson to James Franklin over the past two and a half years.
Until now, that is. Thursday, Penn State announced that Caldwell was retiring after more than three decades with the program. He had been on the sideline for 379 games in his 31-year career.
The news began to filter around to former players Wednesday afternoon.
"He is not only one of the nicest and most genuine people associated with the Penn State football program, but also one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life."
He is not only one of the nicest and most genuine people associated with the Penn State football program, but also one of the nicest people I have ever met in my life, said Conlin, who also served as a graduate assistant coach with the Lions' strength and conditioning staff. He is the greatest and will be sorely missed. I am proud to call Spider my brother.
According to a PSU release, Caldwell and his wife are relocating to Fair Haven, Vt., where he will serve as athletic director at Fair Haven Union High. The couple own a vacation home in the area. His new job begins July 1.
"Words cannot begin to express the gratitude I have towards Penn State for all the opportunities it has given me through the years," Caldwell said in the release. "The Penn State Family, from all the lettermen, coaching staffs, managers, countless alumni and fans, is what makes Penn State such a special place.
"I'd like to thank, first and foremost, Coach (Joe) Paterno, who became not only my coach, but a father and grandfather figure to me. He instilled in me the values and discipline that I carry with me today. Thank you, JoePa, for all the great memories."
"I'd like to thank, first and foremost, Coach Paterno, who became not only my coach, but a father and grandfather figure to me," he added. "He instilled in me the values and discipline that I carry with me today. Thank you, JoePa, for all the great memories. I'd like to also thank Coach O'Brien, for letting me be part of two of the most special groups of players in Penn State history.
"Finally, I'd like to thank Coach Franklin for giving me an opportunity to be part of his staff. The staff he has put together to lead Penn State to great things in the future made this a difficult decision."
Franklin credited Caldwell with helping his staff make the transition from Vanderbilt to Penn State.
"Spider has been an invaluable and tremendous resource for me and our staff," Franklin said. "He has been a vital part of the Penn State football family for more than 30 years and I wish we could have him working alongside us for another 30 years. Spider will always be part of our family and I want to thank him on behalf of all the players and coaches he has worked with and helped. We are discussing honoring him, and what he has meant to Penn State and the football program, in a special way. We wish Spider all the best and look forward to seeing him again on the Beaver Stadium sidelines."