SEC scribes are already inclined to sympathize with Vanderbilt coaches, whose job is tough enough without a lot of busybody reporters second-guessing every move. They always respected the recently retired Bobby Johnson for stoically warding off grisly blowouts on a weekly basis.
But as of Thursday morning, they absolutely love interim coach Robbie Caldwell, whose folksy humor so thoroughly charmed the pants off assembled media at SEC media day in Birmingham that they actually broke Journalism 101 decorum to applaud the performance as Caldwell left the dais. At least one of the group of hardened cynics deemed it "the best press conference in SEC history."
He was loose, funny, open and out-drawled the reigning SEC drawl champ, Tennessee's Derek Dooley, by a country mile. Also, he proudly admitted that his first paying gig was on a turkey insemination crew. If you have to ask, well, YouTube is here for you:
A guy who came up doing that is now the most visible employee of one of the most exclusive private schools in the South. What's not to love?
Other ingratiating highlights from the transcript:
• On his family's reaction to the job: "My family was in a panic. All they heard was 'retirement.' You know all the speculation that goes on as well as anybody. They were all in an uproar, crying, carrying on. They never heard about the part about me getting to be interim head coach. When I get home, there's no congratulations. There's a panic. It's, 'What are we going to do? Are we out of a job?'"
• On his experience as a head coach: "I told my wife, if it's two days or 20 years, I will now be able to say, 'Hey, I was a head coach one time,' other than in 1977 when I was head baseball coach. We were pretty good, by the way. We were 14-2, had a chance, made the state playoffs."
• On his anonymity, generally: "I can still walk in places and nobody knows me. Last night I was opening the door for people and they gave me a tip. I thought, hey, that's great. How can you get it any better than that?"
• On his anonymity, even among his peers: "I got to see coach Spurrier today, coach Richt. They have no idea who I am."
• On continuing Johnson's ban on cussin': "You know, I'm no angel, that's for certain. ... But, you know, it's just a sign of limited vocabulary sometimes. I know y'all can't tell it, but I do have an education."
• On his hometown, Pageland, S.C.: "You had to like watermelon, number one, because it was the watermelon capitol of the word, we proclaimed anyway. You had to like hunting and fishing. Frog gigging. I was scared to death of girls, so that didn't interest me. And I played ball. We played all sports to get out of work. That was the policy. If you played a sport, you didn't have to work during a practice time. That's why I played basketball. I was probably the worst there's ever been, but I played it so I wouldn't have to go pour concrete."
• On adjusting to the culture at Vanderbilt: "I think it was a big adjustment for Vanderbilt."
He'll be here all year, folks. After that, well, we'll see how it goes.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.