SUNSET, S.C.—When you have been a college football coach for 39 years the chances are pretty good that you have been around your fair share of good players.
While the wide receivers, quarterbacks, linebackers, running backs, defensive backs and defensive line coaches can quickly point out the best players they have ever coached—and their names would immediately be recognizable by even the most casual of fan—for the offensive line it is different.
Those players who catch the attention of offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell, most likely, are the ones that go unnoticed, because the offensive line is the unsung heroes on the football team.
“”Well, here’s the way I categorize them. I’ve had so many over the years, I forget how long I’ve been coaching. I don’t look in the mirror, I feel 18,” Caldwell said. “I’ve been blessed, that’s why I don’t look at in the mirror because I look like ‘who is that guy?’ But the people that I’ve coached have just been phenomenal, I’ve had some great ones. You would never even recognize their names because they were undersized people, they never got to go to the NFL, but they were better than the NFL players that I’ve had. It’s just the world we live in.
” Coming in today (to Dabo Swinney’s media golf outing), listening to the radio, I listened to all of them (the personalities), they wanna talk about this, this and that—not one of them mentions the offensive line. And you look at them and there’s not a fat person sitting over there and you know why. But my guys, they love the game too, and I’m excited.”
There is one player, who even in 39 years of coaching football that Caldwell admits is a different kind of player—rising junior Mitch Hyatt.
Hyatt has racked up the accolades since arriving on campus, from his freshman season which saw him named first-team freshman All-American by Sporting News and USA Today and third-team All-ACC (coaches and media) to last season, which saw him allow only one sack while being named first-team All-ACC (media) and second-team All-ACC (coaches).
He continued to garner the attention of the media ahead of his junior campaign being named first-team All-ACC Preseason, as well as being named to the Outland Trophy watch list—given to the best college football interior lineman.
However, for Caldwell it is not his size, 6-foot-5, 295 pounds that impresses him, nor is it the numerous accolades and honors that are stacking up for the junior. It is the fact that he just gets it.
“Mitch is one of those–he’s a rare breed,” Caldwell said. “I do not have to raise my voice at Mitch. And you know, this is a motivating, loud get after it group, area that we’re in. But he listens, he usually gets it the first time, you don’t have to coach attitude or effort, he’s 100 percent.
My guys say ‘well you don’t ever fuss at Mitch’ and I say I don’t have to. Does he do it right all the time? No, he’s human. But he’s just a joy to be around. So, in that regard, he fits right there with the best of them.”
It is not as if Hyatt does not need to work on things or continue perfecting his craft to eventually make it to the NFL, but if he continues to put in the work, being only a rising junior, he will surely go down as one of the best Caldwell has ever coached.
“What does he need to work on? Well, he’s added some bulk,” Caldwell said. “He ran the other day about the fastest he’s ever ran. You know, the boy’s just a sophomore, going to be a junior so, pretty neat.”