Former Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback speaks to Greenville Track Camp

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Former Iowa Hawkeyes starting quarter Butch Caldwell (L) and Greenville track and field coach Bill Plessinger (R). (Gaylen Blosser photo)

GREENVILLE – Butch Caldwell, a four-year Iowa Hawkeyes starting quarterback, was in Greenville observing veteran Green Wave head track and field coach Bill Plessinger’s annual five-day track and field camp.

“Our goal is to start one of these in inner-city Dayton next year,” said Plessinger. “I already have some of my coaches who said they would make the road trip to Dayton, so hopefully, we can make it work.”

Coach Plessinger and Caldwell first met while serving as coaches for the Light Foundation’s All-Conference Football Camp. The coaching relationship has continued for more than 20 years, leading to an invitation for Caldwell to speak to the Greenville campers to open the 2024 track and field camp while observing the successful program.

“Coach ‘P’ introduced me and told the kids I could get a college scholarship, go to school, and take the burden off my parents,” Caldwell stated. “My father and mother were teachers, so they weren’t making a lot of money, and my dad told me when I was about 14 years old, if you want to go to college, I better find a way to do it myself because he couldn’t do it.”

Butch Caldwell, four-year starting quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes football program. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

“It motivated me to turn to sports because many of my friends were stealing cars and all this other stuff,” he continued, “so I turned to sports, and it got me what I needed. I got a scholarship and a degree, which helped me become a better person.”

Iowa Hawkeyes four-year starting quarterback Butch Caldwell coaches a Light Foundation All-Conference football camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)Caldwell attended Roth High School in Dayton, OH, and was one of the first sophomores in the city to make All-City First Team Quarterback. He was a dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school. He was among the most coveted high school recruits in the nation, narrowing his choices down to Michigan, Ohio State, Southern California, Tennessee, and Iowa.

The Hawkeyes were coming off a 1-10 season in 1971, the first under head coach Frank Lauterbur. He was recruited by Iowa assistant coach Jack Harbaugh. Freshmen, for the first time, were eligible to play varsity football in 1972, but the other schools weren’t interested in throwing a rookie quarterback into the starting lineup of major college football, except for Iowa.

He was one of the first African-American quarterbacks to start at a major university and was named Iowa’s team captain and most valuable player in 1976.

Caldwell was one of four African-American quarterbacks in the early group, along with Vince Evans of USC, the 1977 Rose Bowl MVP; Condredge Holloway at Tennessee; and Massilon High School graduate Dennis Franklin, who went on to play for the Michigan Wolverines.

Caldwignedell had NFL contracts with the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.

Caldwell and his sister, a physical education teacher and high school coach, have discussed a possible track and field camp for inner-city Dayton children.

(L-R) Butch Caldwell, Greenville Athletic Director Aaron Shaffer and Greenville Track & Field coach Bill Plessinger share a moment at Greenville track & field camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

“We were talking about doing a track camp, and we don’t know if we would be wasting our time or what the interest would be,” Caldwell said. “I came up here to Greenville and I see Coach ‘P’ and it’s amazing. It gives me more hope in helping and saving some of these kids.”

“Butch and I go way back with the Light Camp,” said Coach Plessinger. “This is not something many places do, especially to this magnitude, so I thought it was great that he came down and observed it. He would like to try and do this for the inner-city Dayton kids, and I think we could pull it off.”

“I told him I will help you. I can bring some people and help set it up for you. It’s not my secret. It’s just that I’m the only one crazy enough to do it every year, but it makes our track program. We have kids running college track, and they started here at track camp, so I’m glad Butch got to see it.”

“The first time you’re out here, it’s oh my, but it all runs smooth, and it’s all thanks to my help,” added Coach Plessinger. “Hopefully, next year we take this on the road and go down to Welcome Stadium and do it for the kids of inner-city Dayton – that’s what Butch is looking at, so hopefully we can do it.”