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May 29, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; May 29, 2014 - One of the most revered individuals associated with the Penn State Football family, Brad "Spider" Caldwell, is retiring from the University after 31 years as a fixture on the Nittany Lions' sideline.
A member of the Penn State football equipment staff since 1986, Caldwell and his wife, Karen, are relocating to their vacation home in Vermont, where he has accepted a position as Activities Director for the Fair Haven Union High School in Fair Haven, Vt. Among the duties of the Activities Director is serving as the school's athletic director. Caldwell will begin his new position on July 1.
The Nittany Lions' Equipment and Facilities Coordinator, Caldwell began his association with the football program in 1983 as a student manager after spending his freshman year at Penn State-DuBois near his hometown of Curwensville, Pa. He has been on the sidelines for 379 Nittany Lion games during his 31 years of outstanding and "team-first" service to Penn State and the football program.
"Words cannot begin to express the gratitude I have towards Penn State for all the opportunities it has given me through the years," said Caldwell. 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 also thank Coach (Bill) 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 (James) 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," Caldwell added.
Caldwell began his career with Penn State as a football student manager in 1983, with the inaugural Kickoff Classic vs. Nebraska as his debut contest. His first bowl game was the 1986 Orange Bowl vs. Oklahoma for the national championship and one year later he was on the sidelines as the Nittany Lions defeated No. 1 Miami, 14-10, in the epic 1987 Fiesta Bowl to capture the national title.
"Spider is beloved by Penn Staters everywhere and we are going to miss him," stated Dave Joyner, Director of Athletics. "The passion and dedication Spider has displayed for our football student-athletes throughout his 30-plus years is unrivaled. He and Karen have gone above and beyond countless times while working with three head coaches, their staffs and many, many others at the University and beyond. He's had a tough job, with many early mornings and late nights throughout the year, but his smile and positive attitude never waned. I want to thank Spider and Karen and wish them all the best as they begin this new chapter of their lives."
"Spider has been an invaluable and tremendous resource for me and our staff," said head coach James Franklin. "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."
Caldwell graduated from Penn State with a bachelor's degree in recreation and park management in 1986. Upon graduation, he was hired as the Assistant Equipment Manager, and became Head Equipment Manager in 2001, when long-time Equipment Manager Tim Shope retired after 40 years with the football program.
"Spider is a great person," said C.J. Olaniyan, a senior defensive end. "He has always looked out for me since I arrived at Penn State. He gives us energy with all the things he does. His rituals, they help bring the team together. Things like the song he always plays to make sure all the players turn their shoes in before each game. It's going to be hard not having him in the locker room but I'm happy that he is doing what's best for him and his family. He will be missed."
"Brad "Spider" Caldwell is what Penn State football is all about," said Todd Kulka, who played for the Nittany Lions in the mid-1990's and has been a colleague of Caldwell's since 1997 as a member of the football team's football academic support services staff. "There is not a Penn State football letterman who does not have great memories of their time with Spider. He gave more of himself to Penn State football than he was ever given back. He treated every player like his own son, whether they were an All-American or a walk-on. There was never a job too big or too small for Spider and all jobs were treated with equal importance. Spider is one of the behind-the-scenes guys who helped make Penn State football feel like a family. I wish Spider and Karen the best of luck and continued success with their new opportunities and journey ahead."
Throughout Spider's tenure on the Penn State staff, Karen has played an important behind-the-scenes role for the team, sewing bowl patches on all the team's jerseys for 11 bowl games. She volunteered to begin making uniform repairs in 1990. The Nittany Lions wore the Big Ten logo on their jerseys in the 1993 Blockbuster Bowl, the year before beginning conference play, and Karen sewed the patch on all the jerseys. Penn State wore a bowl patch for the 1997 Fiesta Bowl and, starting with the 1999 Alamo Bowl, has worn a bowl patch on the jersey for its last nine bowl games, with all the patches sewn by Karen Caldwell.
The 2012 season presented new challenges for Brad and Karen, as O'Brien decided to have the players' last names on the back of their jerseys to permanently recognize all the players who remained at Penn State after the NCAA sanctions. At the start of the 2012 season, the names were heat pressed onto the jerseys, but after some of the letters began to peel away from the white jerseys after the first road game, Karen sewed every player's name onto a plain patch and then sewed the patch onto the jersey.
Four days before the 2012 Senior Day clash with Wisconsin, and three days after senior leader and All-American Michael Mauti had suffered a season-ending injury, Spider was presented with a challenge he had not had not encountered during his Penn State career. On the Tuesday prior to the contest with the Badgers, seniors Jordan Hill and Michael Zordich received approval from O'Brien to have Mauti's No. 42 placed on the side of the helmets, similar to style the Nittany Lions wore until the mid-1970's.
Spider quickly had 120 sets of "42" decals made and then got approval from O'Brien after showing him what the helmet would look like, three days before the game. The day before the Nittany Lions' 24-21 thrilling overtime win over Wisconsin, Spider spent approximately five hours in the Beaver Stadium locker room placing the numbers on every helmet, finishing the job at 9 p.m., hours before he would need to return to the stadium locker room to make sure all the uniforms and equipment were ready for the team.
Current Player Comments Regarding Brad "Spider" Caldwell's Retirement
"It has been great getting to know Spider. He is universally loved. He is a great guy and one of those rare people who you always feel better after talking with them. He is someone you can go talk to about anything, he is always positive and happy to see you. Not having him in the locker room is going to be tough."
Junior linebacker Ben Kline
"Spider was the first person I met when I arrived at Penn State and he has remained a great friend through all four years. I have the utmost respect for Spider and all that he has done for Penn State football and the players for many years."
Senior safety Jesse Della Valle
"Spider is always there when you need him. He's a great guy. When you ask for help, he gets right on it. He's always there to help, he has a great attitude and never complains. We will miss him."
Senior safety Ryan Keiser