The word ‘interim’ means little to Robbie Caldwell. With or without it, Vanderbilt’s ‘interim’ football coach has a job to do.
“All I know how to do is work,” he said Thursday at SEC football media days. “I've been a worker all my life.”
Caldwell’s new job put him in front of a ballroom full of regional and national media for the first time, and when it was finished he exited to a bit of applause.
He answered questions about everything from the influence of former coach Bobby Johnson to his childhood in Pageland, South Carolina. He talked about his days working with turkeys and proudly showed off his belly.
Nothing was off limits. He was forthcoming, fearless and funny.
One question for which he did not have a definitive answer, though, was how long he thought he would have the job.
He was named interim coach when Johnson announced his retirement a little more than a week ago, and vice chancellor David Williams said he was not looking for anyone else. At the same time, Williams offered no guarantee that Caldwell would have the job beyond this season.
“Vanderbilt has given me no stipulations,” he said. “All they've told me is, ‘We're behind you 100 percent.’ I know vice chancellor Williams said, ‘You're our coach. ‘We're not out looking for one. You're our coach.’
“I'm extremely excited about what they've presented to me and the efforts they put behind me. I'm just, you know, in place and ready to go.”
Interim or not, the role of head coach a first for the 56-year-old, who has spent the last 34 seasons as a college football assistant.
“I think I can do it. I really do,” Caldwell said. “You know, Coach Johnson has given me a good hand in letting me do some things. Mike O'Cain, I was his assistant head coach at (North Carolina) State. That (gave) me some things to run with. I don't have a problem making a decision.
“… Thirty-something years, like I say. I've been preparing for this day. I was not consumed by becoming a head coach. But I watched and I listened and I admired. I want to mirror some of those things those guys have done.”
One thing would be to do the job minus the ‘interim.’