David Caldwell is a 5-foot 11-inch, 212 pound safety out of William and Mary who joined the Colts as an undrafted free agent following the 2010 NFL Draft. Caldwell out-performed all safeties at the 2010 NFL Combine in the broad jump, 3-cone drill, short shuttle, and 60-yard shuttle. His 39.5 inch vertical leap would have ranked third amongst safeties at the combine. His 4.5 40-yard dash speed is also very good.
While Cadwell did not play for a school capable of competing for a national championship, he did play at both safety and cornerback during his time at William and Mary, starting his final three seasons at the safety position. He racked up 243 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, three interceptions, and seven passes broken up.
His career totals in tackles were just outside the top 20 active leaders at the conclusion of the 2009 season, and 12th in the nation among all active players with 163 career solo tackles.
Caldwell took the time out of his Sunday evening to speak with me on the phone about topics ranging from how he became the person and athlete he is today, to how he hopes to separate himself from his competition, to what he feels he can bring to the Colts organization. In all, he spent a half hour giving fans a look inside of his experiences and in order to honor that I have tried to represent his answers and our conversation as accurately as I can.
It is a rare thing to have a player with so much going on give so much time back and it was an honor to have the opportunity. I hope you all will enjoy getting to know David “DaC” Caldwell as much I did.
BM – Have you had the time to do anything fun this summer?
DaC – I visited some family. Most of my family and friends are in New Jersey but I got the chance to go to a couple of other places to visit friends and family. I got to visit some family in Florida. The best time I have is going back home to see my parents, my close family, my grandmother, and friends I grew up with. That is the biggest joy for me.
But most of my time has been spent here trying to put myself in a good position with the team.
BM- Have you ever been to Indianapolis or the Midwest before coming to the Colts, and how it is different from where you grew up or went to school?
DaC – It is much different. I came to Columbus once when I was in fourth grade, I think I was nine years old, for a basketball tournament but I really only really remember the basketball stuff. Other than that I really haven’t been anywhere out here.
As far as Indianapolis, it’s much different than New Jersey. I was joking with one of my friends and said it’s country, it’s real country. A different kind of country than Virginia, I mean Virginia is country too but it’s just a different kind of country.
The city is really nice. It’s one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to, coming from Jersey. It’s a nice area.
There are some things to do. One of my friends is doing an internship in Chicago, he was one of my roommates all throughout college. I haven’t had the chance to see him but I plan on doing that, sometime.
BM – Speaking of some of the guys you grew up with, did any of them have a big impact on you as a player? Maybe one of your teammates or one of your coaches that stand out?
DaC – I would say my friends more than anything. Growing up I started playing football because all of my friends were playing football. It’s funny because it changes.
In high school you are playing with all of your friends, representing your home town with guys you’ve been playing with since you were nine years old. Everything is natural and you know who is rooting for you.
Then, when I went to prep school for a year, it was a little different. I didn’t really know anybody. Then I continued to college and I always questioned, is this really what I want to do. If not, you can’t really commit to something like that.
Every time I think about it I come up with the answer: “yes” because I love the sport. So I just kept chugging away. Other than my family, there is nothing that really gives me as much joy as being out on the football field.
BM – After all of that hard work you get thrown right into rookie camp and mini-camp, how intense was the learning curve?
DaC – It was intense. The main difference has been the playbook. Just learning the different packages, that’s where you have to really pay attention and study your books.
I am sure a lot of people would say, “He is coming from a small school, how can he adjust to the speed of the game?” But I came from a really good program where a lot of the schemes that we ran were similar to the Colts packages, with different names of course. It is something I plan to use as an advantage.
Not to say that the speed of the game is not going to be a big adjustment but once you know what you are doing, that all comes naturally. Once you are familiar with the system it is easier to adjust when you are just out there having fun because you have been doing it for so long.
BM – The Colts have a very good group of safeties and I heard through the grape-vine that one of your idols was Bob Sanders, what has it been like to work with these guys?
DaC – Yeah, that’s my man. I’ve always watched him and it’s funny because all of my college teammates and coaches knew that was my guy. If anyone brings up a safety, no disrespect to all the other great safeties out there but that’s my man and everybody knew that.
It’s funny when you get the chance to play with your favorite player, that you’ve always looked up to. Not even necessarily playing with him but getting to see him in the locker room, you naturally try to do the same stuff he does. You see his preparation and his film study. It’s encouraging for you to do the same. It’s an opportunity that you have to take advantage of.
You can never tell him he is the best player once you’re on the same team.
BM – Now you have to compete with him right? *laughs*
DaC – Exactly. Every safety on the roster when I came in were really good players. I mean, Bob and Bethea are arguably the best safety tandem in the NFL. I am going to use it to my advantage, I feel like I get to learn from the best.
BM – Obviously you are aware that the Colts have a history developing undrafted players into big-time contributors, I mean at your position you see a guy like Melvin Bullitt, how did that affect your decision to come to Indianapolis?
DaC – It definitely did. I did my research. I knew that if it didn’t happen for me in the draft that it would basically be up to me to choose the best position for myself. I knew the Colts history, I’ve watched Bullitt. Just to go off the point, Bullitt is a really good guy.
Guys like Bullitt, other guys like Jamie Silva, even Antoine Bethea got drafted in the sixth round and he has exceeded all the sixth round expectations that he could. It makes me feel like I am entering a comfortable situation. I had the opportunity to sign with other teams but it just didn’t feel as good in my gut, like I belong in those places.
Here I really feel like I can really get the opportunity to make a difference, making the team, on special teams, wherever I can fit. I just look at it as a great opportunity. Coming from a small school I just wanted the opportunity to try out and be in front of some NFL coaches and have them evaluate me because I figure you find out whether you have it or you don’t. I feel confident in my abilities so I feel like I am a really good position.
BM – Now you are getting into a competition with some of these guys that you have had the chance to watch for a few years. If you had to tell the Colts why they should keep David Caldwell over his competition, what do you bring to the table?
DaC – I feel like I am a competitor. I am not only someone who is going to compete on the field but someone who is going to prepare to be my best. I am someone who is going to study the film. I am someone who is going to treat football like it is my job because that’s what it is.
Just like anything else in life, if you want to be successful you are going to have great preparation, great study skills, and be a really focused athlete to do whatever is possible to compete at the highest level.
BM – What area of your game do you feel you need to work on most?
DaC – I feel like you can never get complacent in any area, especially in football. Once you get complacent, somebody else is going to work harder.
I would like to continue to learn the playbook, and continue to get comfortable with it. I want to be in the best shape I can entering camp and improve on every aspect of the game. Once you get the pads on in camp you want make sure you are used to playing physical. That is a big difference between college and the NFL, you don’t do a lot of hitting in practice and then when you get out there you have to be sure you are used to playing physical. That all comes from your preparation.
BM – What kind of work do you do on your own to get better?
DaC – You definitely have to do things when you are on your own. It could be as small as just sitting in your room and working on a T-step, or working on your posture in your stance, or back pedaling. As a DB a lot of your movement is backwards and transitioning, so you can work on jogging, transitioning, walking backwards, and transitioning off of your T-step.
Anytime you can get on the field, or just play catch with a friend and do some drills, or have them throw the ball to you it’s great. That’s something the great DBs do to set them self apart, have great ball skills. Everyone likes to say DBs can’t catch so that work will set you apart even more.
BM – Do you feel like you have pretty good ball skills?
DaC – I feel like I do. I am confident in my ball skills. Me and my friends back in college, we always joked around about who has the best hands on the team and stuff like that. But I feel like I have pretty good hands, I am confident in them. If the ball is in the air I always feel confident that I can go and snag it down.
BM – I know you had some experience in college as a corner, have the Colts indicated that you’ll be working at all in the nickel position?
DaC – That hasn’t come up. Like you said, I played corner my whole freshman year and I actually played nickel all four years in college so it’s a position I am really comfortable with. Like I said, whatever position they want me to play. *laughs* I will block for Peyton if they need me to.
BM – Another thing that really popped out at me is that I know you have some experience returning kicks and the Colts have used backup safety Jamie Silva to return punts, have you had any indication that the team is going to give you any looks as a returner?
DaC – I told them that I have experience returning kicks. I did a little returning in rookie camp and showed them that I can catch the ball.
I feel like they have brought a lot of guys in that are very good in the return game. Just this year we drafted a couple of guys and signed a couple of guys that should be good returners. But if they ask me, I will be the first one running out there. I feel really confident in that area as well.
It’s funny, me and my friends were just joking about it, as a defensive player you always like to say, “hey, I used to play offense” and you still think you got it, and as an offensive player you feel like you can play defense. I feel like at running back I could have had it too.
With kick returning if you are an athlete you feel like you can make things happen so I feel like I can do that as well.
BM – Who have you grown closest to since arriving in Indianapolis?
DaC – It’s funny because the safeties that I am competing with, as far as the other rookies, Mike Newton and Donye’ McCleskey, those are the guys I am with most of the time. Of course we all know that we are competing against each other but we just connect.
BM – Have any of the veterans given you a hand and reached out to help you develop?
DaC – Definitely. Bob is good. I have hit him up a couple of times to go over some film with me. He is really helpful. Bullitt and Silva are too actually. They are all willing to help us do our best. They were in the same position themselves. Once you feel like you get one thing [figured out] you are already on to the next thing in the playbook.
They have all been really helpful and it makes you feel comfortable to know the guys above you don’t just say, “hey he has to get it on his own, I had to get it on my own.” It really helps.
BM – In terms of guys helping you out, is there any technique or suggestion one of the veterans have shared with you that you found really valuable?
DaC – I couldn’t pinpoint one technique. Those guys are out there every rep and they give us good feedback. When we run to the sideline you will have Bob or Bullitt giving you feedback. I could talk to Jamie while we are in there together. That makes it really helpful. I get feedback from the other rookies as well.
Everybody giving feedback really helps because the coach can’t watch everybody at the same time. Getting feedback is the best thing because if you don’t get feedback you are going to think that you are doing something right and continue to do that. If you are getting feedback, and not just negative feedback, it is a statement to let you know that you did that right and you can move on to the next play.
BM – How about the coaching staff, have they been really helpful?
DaC – Definitely. We have two DB coaches. Coach Williams works primarily with the safeties, he is really good. He will get you the information, work with you, give you good feedback, spend extra time in the film room with you to get you prepared so you can do your best out there on the field.
I have been happy with the coaching staff in general. I think Indianapolis is a really good organization and that is all I have heard from other players on the team, and even from a few other players on different teams.
BM – Obviously you have been focusing an awful lot on football since you arrived in Indianapolis. When you’re not focusing on football, what do you do for fun?
DaC – I’m a movie guy. I go see movies. Who else is a movie guy on the team? Guice. Dudley Guice is a movie guy. Donye’ McCleskey is a movie guy. We all try to go see movies. In fact we saw “A-Team” with a guy that works at the hotel, he works at the front desk.
Back at school we’d fish, that was one of our biggest hobbies. We had a bunch of lakes around us in Virginia. Fishing is one of my favorite things to do. It’s one of the most relaxing things you can do. It’s competitive, you get a big rush when you feel like a fish is on there, and then you find out is a log or something. *laughs* It still keeps you going and relaxes you. When we fished college we would have 10 to 15 guys out there at a time.
I haven’t seen too many places to fish around here but we make movie trips to Walmart and Best Buy almost every day and get a new DVD.
BM – If there is one thing that is kind of memorable or funny since you have been around your new teammates, Guice mentioned going bowling with Muir and Smith, and some the guys. What is something that kinds of pops out? I imagine you guys goof around a little bit and have fun with eachother.
DaC – Coach Williams had a cookout and all the DBs came over and we were playing horse. Me, Mike Newton, Donye’ McCleskey, Bob was out there, and Terrail Lambert. Just playing horse with Bob is funny. Just being out there realizing I am playing horse with Bob. I am not going to say who won right now, I think the game got cut a little short but I don’t think Bob would have won. *laughs*
That was something. You realize that you’re in a really relaxed environment playing horse. It is one of those things where I was looking back, right after it, talking to one of my friends at home. He says, “what did you do today,” and I told him. It made me realize that you have to take advantage of the opportunity and now that you are here, it is up to you whether you are going to stay here or not.
BM – I called you a couple of times but couldn’t get through and it went to your voicemail and I was like, “who?” Do you have a nickname? What’s the story behind your nickname?
DaC – *laughs* Yeah, let’s get into that. Everybody calls me DaC [pronounced dak] because my Dad’s name is actually David as well. So from the day I was born my Mom and Dad nicknamed me DaC and that is my initials DAC, David Alexander Caldwell. It’s funny when somebody calls me David. For the most part teachers in school and even the newspaper back at home in high school would put DaC in the newspaper.
It’s funny, when someone says David it’s like, “Huh? Oh, you are talking to me.” Even my coaches would do it, my coaches in college knew that as well, so they say DaC. Here [in Indy] I haven’t even told anybody that everybody calls me DaC. I just let them get their own nickname [for me], a lot of them say DC, I’m cool with that as well.
At home, if you say David they will probably think a little bit, but if you say DaC they’ll know who you are talking about.
BM – You had a great college career. You went to the same school as Derek Cox, and that probably gave you some confidence coming into the league. But I noticed that your statistical production dropped a little bit in your senior season, what would you attribute that to?
DaC – Just getting better as a defense. When you look at the guys we had up front, I mean any double-A school that has two guys that get drafted on the frontline, Sean Lissemore and Adrian Tracy, and we had a couple of other guys that were really good as well, your production is going to go down a little bit.
Our linebackers this year, Jake Trantin is definitely somebody to look at coming out in a couple of years, and we had a couple of other guys this year as well.
It’s kind of funny because I look back and think dang, my sophomore year I had like 120 tackles and only played 10 games. This year we went all the way to the playoffs and I know I had only like half of that. It’s funny because every year my tackles went down but our defense got better. So I was happy with that.
My coach allowed me to do a couple of other things this year — not play always in the box and be a complete safety. The tackles went down and a couple of the other numbers went down, but I felt that I really improved every year, so I guess that just comes with it. If you have a good defense, your safety probably shouldn’t be leading your team in tackles.
BM – You come into the NFL from a relatively small school, what differences do you notice in the facilities that are available to you. Do you feel that it gives you an advantage to have what I imagine would have to be better equipment and better training facilities?
DaC – Coming to the NFL from college, the weight room looks a little bit different. But actually, at William and Mary we were fortunate enough to have probably one of the best locker room and meeting room facilities in the country — probably on any level of football.
My junior year was the first year they used the Jimmy Laycock Center. Before that we were underneath the stadium, underneath the stairs. My freshman year there was no air conditioning, it was terrible. Coming in you are wearing cleats that some other player wore and you’re thinking, “What is this, I can’t get new cleats?” *laughs* So it’s funny but it changed. It got better and better.
If anybody hasn’t seen the Jimmy Laycock Center, our lockers have fans in them, they spoil us a little bit. But after that our wins went up too so I guess everything was better. *laughs*
The Colts definitely have good facilities. That is one of the main things you want, a good training facility. You don’t want to be in the training room a lot but it helps to have a good training facility if you get a little nicked up so you can get out of there and get better quick. I was really impressed with the Colts training facility.
BM – I imagine you must be excited about getting to Anderson and getting things underway.
DaC – Yeah, I’m really excited. Anytime you get that anxious energy it is like before a Pro Day. Awhile before you think, “I want to prepare, I want to prepare,” but it gets to the point where you feel ready for it and want to go out and make it happen.
I am really anxious for it but I’m glad to have that anxious energy. I am looking forward to it. I think we have like two and a half weeks until we start up. I am just really excited about the opportunity. Not a lot of people get this opportunity so I am just trying to make the best of it.
BM – Well you are going to have a lot of support from the Colts fans, they are very loyal. I am going to be up at training camp a lot so maybe if I see you along the sidelines I will yell “hey DaC” and you will think, “what? nobody knows my name around here.” I look forward to seeing you and wish you the best of luck, I think you’re a heck of an athlete and look forward to seeing you out there in Anderson.
DaC – I appreciate it. And if you say “DaC” I will definitely say, “Hey, that’s my man Brett.”
As film on Caldwell shows, he plays at a high speed on the field. He knows how to make solid, hard-hitting tackles, and displays that uncanny “nose for the football.”
Caldwell has the speed and athletic ability to return, if needed. In his final three years at William and Mary, Caldwell returned 30 kickoffs for 677 yards (22.6 yards avg.) and one punt for seven yards.
When one considers that Silva is not only asked to cover kicks and punts but has occasionally been asked to return as well, Caldwell’s background filling those roles makes him seem like a solid compliment for the Colts.
If you are heading to Anderson to watch the Colts in training camp let this be your warning, beware the “DaC attack.” What is the “DaC attack?” you ask. You will have to see the Colts in camp to find out, but the following video should give you an idea.