How easy the masses forget, which proves my theory on life and sport.
In the shallowness of fandom, you’re only as good as your last play, last game or last bull fight. It’s a fact of life amongst a small but very loud group of fans. No one and I mean no one, felt that consternation more than former Clemson offensive line coach, Robbie Caldwell.
In the blame game, it’s easy, almost to the point of cruelty, to hurl a large portion of the blame for the shortcomings of 2021 on one poor soul. Most of the season, that poor soul was Caldwell. As a lifelong coach, he understands the game both on the field and off.
After a lifetime of training young men, he knows fans are going to be fans. Plus, he had already planned to step away from his on-field role at the end of the 2021 season. I’m sure at some point during last season, he was glad he had made that decision. Never fear, thankfully, he will still be a part of the staff as Director of Player Development. A job his personality and demeanor suits quite well.
In the deep recesses of my memory bank, I seem to remember reading a national story regarding an event after the 2015 epic Clemson-Notre Dame contest in which the Tigers hung on to win 24-22. That’s not all that happened that night. Now, after a little research, here’s the rest of the story.
In October 2015, Caldwell assisted two Notre Dame fans who were stranded during the never to be forgotten thousand year flood early that Sunday morning.
According to the Post and Courier, the two fans, brothers Larry and Tony Luppi, made the trip to Clemson for Saturday night’s primetime matchup between the Irish and Tigers.
(Excerpts from original story)
“After Clemson’s 24-22 win went final at 11:42 p.m., the Luppis’ plan was to ride a shuttle back to their hotel in Seneca and drive their rental car to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in time to catch a 7:30 a.m. Sunday flight.“
“They never saw the shuttle, and traffic was impossibly congested due to the exodus of fans trying to escape the weather. So the Luppis brothers began hiking in the dark and the rain.“
“We’re the most conservative guys. We didn’t have anything to drink the whole day, totally sober,” Tony said. “As we’re running alongside the highway, Larry’s going, ‘you realize these cars can spin out of control and hit us?’ I’m thinking, ‘how would we ever explain this to our loved ones, or how would someone piece this all together?’”
The pair’s hotel was roughly 10 miles from Memorial Stadium and the two eventually reached a convenience store and called a cab. That’s where Caldwell enters the story. He saw the two Notre Dame fans in the store and asked if they needed help.
The brothers thought Caldwell was just a fan, but as he drove them toward the hotel, the driver began making small talk — “Were you at the game? Did you have a great time?” — and eventually, Larry asked what the man did for a living. “ I coach at Clemson,” was the response.
According to Tony, “my first thought was, ‘he coaches baseball or rugby or lacrosse or something.’ So he asked Caldwell what he coached. Oh, I coach the offensive line,” Caldwell said. After reaching the hotel, Caldwell gave the Luppis Brothers directions to return to the highway toward Atlanta, stayed until their rental car started and refused to accept any compensation. The men made their flight on time.
The grateful and now dry, Luppis brothers told the Post and Courier that they planned to send Caldwell a thank you note and a gift card to Bass Pro Shops.
“Pretty dedicated fans to come all the way out here. They were the nicest people, and they were tickled pink,” Caldwell, said. “All they could talk about was how well they were treated by the Clemson fans. That’s very impressive by our people.”
It would have been so easy to get in and out of that convenience store and not even notice those two. Yes, most would have done just that, particularly in that monsoon but not Clemson’s consummate gentleman, Caldwell. He thought nothing of it, having the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions, it’s just part and parcel of who he is.
I’m sure, reading all the hullabaloo, he probably felt too much was made of his random act of kindness but it wasn’t to stop there. This story took on national prominence and highlighted for America, what those that know him best already knew, Caldwell was just being himself.
In remembering this story, I’m struck by one kind, generous and random act of kindness. I guess, it’s my attempt, six years too late, to tell him thanks for just being himself. In your new role, you’ll continue to represent Clemson with quiet integrity. Good luck in your next role in developing kids into fine, stellar young men.
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