UT athletics hires 'life skills' and 'character' development mentor

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Tennessee Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer has brought in an old friend to help out his athletics department. Fulmer has hired Steve Caldwell as Rocky Top Life Skills and Character Development mentor.

Caldwell coached under Fulmer back in the glory days, helping the football Vols to the 1998 national championship. He coached the Tennessee defensive ends from 1995-2008 and was UT's special teams coordinator from 2000-05.

Overall, Caldwell boasts more than 40 seasons of collegiate coaching experience. He was a part of 10 conference championship teams, two national championship teams—including Tennessee's 1998 BCS Championship squad—and he coached in 20 bowl games.

Chief among Caldwell's duties in his new administrative role is implementing and managing strategic development plans for incoming football student-athletes as they transition to campus life and high-level intercollegiate athletics.

Working in conjunction with VFL Director Dr. Mikki Allen, Caldwell will engage with student-athletes from their signing, through enrollment and will then assist with on-boarding processes. Tennessee's innovative VFL Way programming thoughtfully guides student-athletes through a comprehensive personal growth development journey.

"Steve played a key role during an era of extraordinary success for Tennessee football," Fulmer said. "He knows this community, this campus and the history of this program. He understands the behind-the-scenes work that goes into winning at the highest level.

"He's also a man of great integrity and character who has spent his entire professional career mentoring and developing successful, high-achieving young men. (Head coach Jeremy Pruitt) and I are thrilled to bring Steve on in a role where he can continue to impact and influence young men in our program and help steer them toward excellence."

Caldwell's focus centers on providing mentoring and guidance as it relates to academics, athletics, life skills, personal and professional growth and social responsibilities on campus and throughout the community.

"I'm excited about being back home at Tennessee," Caldwell said. "We left here almost a dozen years ago, and it's always been a dream to come back. I am truly a Vol For Life."

"One of the greatest joys I've had in my 43 years of coaching college football is mentoring young men off the field. It's extremely rewarding to shape their lives in ways that transcend football."

He will serve on Tennessee's football student-athlete support team while also performing external relations functions such as campus, community, lettermen and donor relations. He'll also work closely with Allen to cultivate relationships with current and former student-athletes.

In addition to his 15 seasons on staff at Tennessee, Caldwell also coached at Arkansas State (1978-80, 1985-89, 2013), Pacific (1991-93), Nevada (1994), Ole Miss (1994-95), Arkansas (2010-12, 2018-19) and Boise State (2014-17).

Among the many gridiron standouts Caldwell coached directly, a dozen players who developed in his position room were selected in the NFL Draft, including Leonard Little, Shaun Ellis, Will Overstreet and Super Bowl LIV champion Dustin Colquitt.

Caldwell has walked in the shoes of the college football student-athlete, having played four years as a defensive end and linebacker at Arkansas State. A dean's list academic performer, he earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in Education from ASU before entering the coaching ranks.

Caldwell and his wife, Leisa, have three children, Lauren, Landon, and Lendl. Lauren and Lendl both attended UT.

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