A Spider's Touch On Penn State's Throwback Uniforms

The Nittany Lions' beloved former equipment manager provided historical perspective on the "Generations of Greatness" uniforms. Brad "Spider" Caldwell believes they turned out "clean and classic.”

A throwback equipment manager played a role in the design of Penn State’s newly unveiled throwback football uniforms.

We are speaking, of course, about Nittany Lion legend Brad “Spider” Caldwell, who spent 31 years in the equipment room at Penn State before an oh-so-brief retirement in the summer 2014. http://www.scout.com/college/football/recruiting/story/1784353-under-arm...

James Franklin was hired as PSU’s head coach in January of the same year. Yet in his limited time working under Franklin, Caldwell, who had been the head equipment manager since 2001, helped in the early planning stages of the throwback uniforms.

The “Generations of Greatness” uniforms feature key elements from Penn State gear of the past. That includes numbers on the helmets, gray facemasks, stripes on the pants and white shoes. The Lions will wear them in a themed game vs. Indiana at Beaver Stadium Sept. 30. 

“When me and Spider first talked about this three years ago, all these things were downstairs (at Lasch Football Building),” Franklin said. “When I asked Spider, he brought up the helmet with the gray facemask. He already had it. The numbers on the helmet? He already had it. The striped pants were downstairs — brand new. These things were there.”

So even after Caldwell left that summer, Franklin and new equipment manager Jay Takach had examples of things they eventually might want to try on throwback uniforms. When the decision was made to seriously dive into the throwback project 16 months ago, they were able to relay exactly what they wanted to PSU’s uniform manufacturer, Nike.

By that time, Caldwell had long since come out of his months-long retirement, and was back at Penn State in a new position as facilities coordinator at Beaver Stadium. He has remained close with the football program and is still viewed as a valuable sounding board for equipment (and other) matters.

“He’s like the history book for us,” Takach said. “I go to him all the time and ask him different questions and try to find out how things were done or why they were being done a certain way. So getting input from Spider on this was hugely important for us.”

That said, Penn State went above and beyond to keep the throwback uniforms a secret until Thursday’s official unveiling. And that meant even the living legend wasn’t completely up to speed on exactly what was happening before getting his own sneak preview.

“They had been asking me many historical uniform questions earlier this year,” Caldwell said. “But I wasn’t aware they were actually going to do something until last week.”

“We kind of kept Spider in the dark for a little while on it,” Takach added. “So he was kind of shocked when we brought him in last week and starting talking to him about it.”

Caldwell was a bit skeptical of the white shoes, but only because they harkened back to a single contest (the 1979 Sugar Bowl vs. Alabama) and Penn State lost that game.  

“I’m a little superstitious,” he said with a laugh.


“I thought it looked sharp,” he said. “Clean and classic.” 

Spoken like a true throwback equipment manager.

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