RALEIGH — For three years, Robert Caldwell worked to get to where he is now. After spending two years as a starter for College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., the Spartanburg, S.C., native found his way back to the East Coast for his final two seasons with N.C. State.
After spending his entire junior season as a special teams player, Caldwell is now fully entrenched as the Wolfpacks middle linebacker. Hes still looking for that elusive first sack at the Division-I level, but Caldwell does lead State with 7.5 tackles for loss and tackles overall with 48.
Saturday brings a bigger opportunity: trying to slow down Heisman candidate quarterback Jameis Winston and Florida States potent offense.
Q: How difficult of a task is this for you this week, especially as a middle linebacker, going against Jameis and that offense?
Caldwell: Its going to be a tough challenge. Theyve got a lot of key players and they show a lot of effort, regardless of who theyre lined up against. A lot of it for me is going to be about playing my gap and being mentally locked in. Those boys are physical, so weve got to play downhill.
Q: The FSU war chant was playing on repeat while you were practicing. How much emphasis has been put on being prepared for that this week?
Caldwell: Its going to be tough. Its a big stadium and theyve got a great fan base, so we expect it to be tough. Weve just got to block it all out and when were on the field its just us.
Q: Other than him being a great pocket presence, Winston can also roll out and beat you with his legs. What is the game plan against that this week?
Caldwell: Well, I cant really tell you the game plan. (Laughs.) I wouldnt necessarily say weve done anything differently, but we just focused more on our keys this week to pressure him and contain him when the play does break down.
Q: Coming from a smaller college to a D-I school and finally getting the chance to start this season, what has this season been like for you?
Caldwell: This has been a dream come true. The coaches have trusted me all season and its really been a blessing. I cant put it into any better words than that. God blessed me with an opportunity and Im just trying to make the best of it.
Q: How much different has this coaching staff been from the previous one?
Caldwell: The whole coaching staff is great. Theyre confident and theyre always there for you. If it wasnt for coach (Dave) Doeren, I wouldnt be where I am right now.
Q: How did Doeren help?
Caldwell: I was slacking a little bit in the offseason and he pulled me to the side and said, You need to man up. Its either you do what you need to do or youre off this team. I really look at him as a role model because he made me change my mindset and I became a starter because of that. I really appreciate what he did for me.
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