Gamecocks getting great person and player in Caldwell
On National Signing Day last Wednesday, Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern wide receiver Ger-Cari Caldwell sat in front of his classmates and revealed the college he will be attending.
"So, first off, I would like to thank coaches, family and all my teammates, and with all of that being said, I will be attending the University of South Carolina," Caldwell said before casually placing a garnet beanie adorned with a Gamecock Block C on his head.
It was lowkey, to the point, and classy -- and no surprise to Northwestern head coach Page Wofford.
"We spoke about it beforehand," Wofford said. "We didn't talk about his choice, but I kind of mentioned, 'How do you want to do it?' and he said, 'Coach, I just want to announce it' and that's really all he does. He's business. He's not into all the hoopla some of these other athletes get into."
The style of the announcement was 100 percent in line with what Wofford has come to expect from his three-star wide receiver, who burst onto the recruiting scene after a huge senior season and finished with double-digit FBS offers.
What the 6-foot-4, 193-pound Caldwell can do on the field is the first thing most will talk about, but it's who he is off the gridiron that Wofford prefers to mention first.
"They're getting a great young man, and I know people say that all the time, but truly and honestly, South Carolina is getting a great young man," Wofford said. "He was a leader on our football team this year. He was voted team captain by his teammates, so that kind of shows you -- sometimes the coaches recognize leaders and the kids might not -- but his teammates recognized it too. They're getting a great student-athlete. He's going to do what he's supposed to do in the classroom and do it well."
A full qualifier, who chose the Gamecocks over his other finalist Tennessee, Caldwell saw his recruiting stock explode in early December.
Area recruiters had always been impressed with his size and speed combination, but when he went from catching 13 passes as a junior to 51 catches for 744 yards and 7 touchdowns as a senior, the offers started rolling in.
"We always knew he was a playmaker. We always knew if we could get him the ball in space, even with a little bit of space, he was going to do very well with getting yards and touchdowns," Wofford said. "We tried to get him the ball as much as we could. He'll go up and he'll get contested balls. There's no such thing as a '50/50' ball to a good receiver and he expects to come down with it. He doesn't think there's a 50/50 ball, he wants every ball, no matter who's around him, no matter what the defense is doing with him.
"I think what teams are seeing when they put on his tape is a long, tall -- he's at minimum 6-4, barefoot -- 190 pounds. He's long and big and can run. And on his tape, he makes every catch, high, low, wherever it is he's making the catch and running and doing stuff after the catch."
As good as Caldwell is when the ball is in the air and when it's in his hands, Wofford has also been impressed with what he does to help his teammates away from the ball.
"He's a good blocker, probably one of our best blockers," Wofford said. "He ran routes. We might have a play where he knows he's not getting the ball, he still ran a good route. He wasn't taking that play off just because he wasn't getting the ball. We didn't have to worry about him showing up to games. There wasn't a game that we had where we looked back on said, 'Man, Ger-Cari just didn't give it to us that game,' Every game, he was giving all he could for us and his teammates, so that was good to see."
That combination of qualities led to Caldwell receiving offers from App State, Baylor, Charlotte, Duke, ECU, Illinois, Missouri, N.C. State, Northwestern, Tennessee, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
He took official visits to Baylor and Wake Forest before the early signing period before taking an official visit to Tennessee plus an unofficial and official visit to South Carolina in January.
Caldwell says he ultimately chose the Gamecocks because of his relationships with the coaches there and that it felt like home when he visited.
Already a full-qualifier, Caldwell will enroll at South Carolina and join the program in time to go through summer workouts.
"I'm excited for him because he's a good kid," Wofford said. "He's a good kid, high character, he's what we're trying to produce here at Northwestern High School, that type of kid who is a full-qualifier, a high-character guy who can go contribute right away at a school. He's just ready to get started and I know he's very excited to get to Columbia and we're very excited for him."