Forty years into his coaching career, Steve Caldwell made a decision to move again. It is something he has done numerous times, to spots across the country. But this one was different.
“It definitely was a family decision. For the first time in my 40 years of coaching, I actually took all of them into the thought process, rather than me just loading up and taking off and going to do what I love,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell was officially named an assistant at Arkansas on Wednesday, a hire expected when Caldwell left Dec. 29 as Boise State’s defensive line coach. He said he will coach the defensive ends for the Razorbacks.
A native of Thayer, Mo., located on the Missouri-Arkansas border, Caldwell played at Arkansas State, plus had three stints there as an assistant and coached at Arkansas from 2010 to 2012. His parents, both in their late 80s, live four hours from Fayetteville, Ark., in Thayer.
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“That was my biggest decision. I love Boise State, I love the city, I love the fans, and I had a great group of young men to come back to work with ... the whole staff, it was a great four years for me and my family,” Caldwell said.
Both of Caldwell’s children and his grandchildren live near Knoxville, Tenn. — still a decent hike from Arkansas, but in the epicenter of the SEC, so it’s easy to get to most conference games. His brothers and sisters also continue to live near his hometown.
At Arkansas, Caldwell will work with defensive coordinator John Chavis, who was hired Tuesday. The pair worked together for 14 seasons at Tennessee from 1995 to 2008. Caldwell said Chavis called him the week of the Las Vegas Bowl about the possibility of coaching together again. Caldwell said he didn’t make the decision until after Christmas, when he texted and called his current players, plus the Broncos’ incoming freshmen who signed Dec. 20.
“I felt a little bit guilty about signing them, then finding out five or six days later this was going to happen,” Caldwell said. “... I let them know (when recruiting) Boise State is a great place to be, regardless if I’m there or not.”
With the Razorbacks, Caldwell laughed that he’s searching for depth, just like the case has been the last two seasons with the Broncos, saying “back to that situation again.”
“It’ll take a little bit of time to get it back to where you can play with the Alabamas, the Auburns and the Georgias in this conference,” he said.
Caldwell said he has met new Boise State defensive line coach Chad Kauha’aha’a at the Utah-based All Poly Camp during the summer, and he was impressed, saying “he’ll do a great job with those guys.” The Broncos are slated to return five of the six defensive linemen on the two-deep.
Not that the affable Caldwell needed a boost of energy, but he said his four years in Boise continued to keep him excited about coaching, so he’s eager to bring that to Arkansas. And even after 40 years, he doesn’t necessarily see the finish line closing in quickly.
“As long as these kids and the coaches I’m around feel like I’m able to contribute and do a good job and we can get these guys playing like we had them playing up there, why leave? What am I going to do when I quit? My wife will get tired of me real quick,” Caldwell said.