Former Iowa Quarterback Butch Caldwell coaching locally

Former Iowa MVP quarterback James "Butch" Carter coaches at Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp

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Former Iowa MVP quarterback Butch Caldwell (L) returns to Greenville to assist good friend Matt Light (R) at the Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

GREENVILLE – James “Butch” Caldwell served as quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1972-1976 and is back in Greenville coaching for good friend, Matt Light at the Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp.

“It’s a lifelong thing,” Caldwell said of his many years of football experiences. “That’s what I try to tell these kids, take your sports serious because the guys you end up playing with – we were 18 year old boys, we came out of there tight knit brothers and friends and that is something you just can’t do every day. That is something to cherish.”

“Coach Caldwell is one of the best and we’ve had a lot fun over the years,” Matt Light said. “For these kids out here they get coached up by guys that have interesting backgrounds, come from different trains of thought in terms of how they coach and the way that they coach – it’s been an honor. He’s a really good man.”

Caldwell attended Roth High School in Dayton, OH and was one of the first sophomores in the city of Dayton to make All-City First Team Quarterback and 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.

Dayton Roth graduate and Iowa Hawkeyes MVP quarterback James “Butch” Caldwell returns yearly to help coach at the Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

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. Freshman 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 ended up being named Iowa’s team captain and most valuable player in 1976.

“It gives me a lot of honor to know that I was influential and had a part to play in that because I went through a whole lot of racial things but there was a lot of good people out there too that got me through it,” Caldwell stated. “My mother is from Nashville, TN so I’ve been through all the civil rights and all that. I’m not a racial person. I can’t be because life is too precious and through the experiences I had in the south helped me to get through it at Iowa and every day now the way things are going.”

Caldwell was one of four in the early group of African-American quarterbacks 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.

Caldwell signed NFL contracts with the Baltimore Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.

“It helped me out a whole lot and I take pride and honor in being able to say I was a part of that,” he noted. “I don’t care if my name comes up once or twice but I know in my heart and people that I played with know what we went through and what I went through.”

Caldwell’s Iowa football team held its 50th anniversary this past October.

“We are lifelong friends, these are my brothers from another mother as we say,” Caldwell said with a smile. “Out of the 40 recruits that came in, 18 of us showed up and we had 20 guys that came in and played with us that have already passed away.”

Caldwell took time to share his experiences and wisdom from years of playing and coaching football at all levels of competition.

Coach Butch Caldwell instructs young campers the art of quarterbacking at the 2023 Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

“My best advice to kids is you only go through this one time,” Caldwell said. “I remember when I was a kid I used to be sitting in front of the TV watching the Cleveland Browns and keeping score and my dad said, ‘why you keeping the score, it’s right there on the TV’ and I said because I like to keep score.”

“I wanted to play for the Cleveland Browns growing up but as life had it I got a call from the Baltimore Colts, the Los Angeles Raiders and the Cleveland Browns. My coach that recruited me at Iowa was at Baltimore and he said, ‘Butch, I can guarantee you $50,000 bonus right now and I’ll try to get $150,000 salary’, (1977) and I’m like, that’s a lot of money,”

“As soon as I hang up talking to him I got a call from the Raiders, Al Davis. ‘We would like to bring you out here but you’re going to have to do a lot of work because you’re not from this geographical location but we can push it’. I said OK I’ll think about it and then I get a call from the Cleveland Browns so I’m like ‘oh man’ I’m going to get to play for the team that I want to play for.”

“I’m talking to this man for an hour and he called me Wayne four times in our conversation and after the fourth time I said, look man, this is Butch Caldwell from the University of Iowa, not Wayne Stanley at Iowa State. He was a black quarterback at Iowa State and he didn’t get to play until his senior year.”

“I said I’ve already talked to a coach and he said we’ll match what they’re going to give you and some. I said you know what, my only holdback is if I’ll come and sign with you are you going to have a sign out there saying Wayne or Butch? He just go quiet and I said I would love to play for you guys and I dreamed as a kid but I can’t trust you, you didn’t even know who you’re talking to and I hung up.”

Caldwell’s favorite all-time football player:

“I have two,” he said. “Jim Brown and Joe Namath. Joe Namath is one of my favorite quarterbacks plus I was able to spend a lot of time with him during the summers. Joe Gilliam was another quarterback that I got to work with but Jim Brown and Joe Namath are my two favorite football players. Those are the two who I emulated.”

“It just broke my heart,” Caldwell said of Brown’s recent passing. “The last time I saw him you couldn’t even tell it was him.”