GREENSBORO, N.C. – Jim Caldwell, offensive coordinator of the reigning Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, addressed Guilford College student-athletes April 14 in the school’s Ragan-Brown Field House. Caldwell was the final of four speakers in Guilford’s inaugural Athletics Leadership Forum for student-athletes.
Caldwell, a 36-year coaching veteran, joined the National Football League’s Ravens as the quarterbacks coach in February 2012 before taking over the offensive coordinator position Dec. 10. The former Wake Forest University head football coach spoke about his six pillars to effective leadership. He illustrated his points with quotations and anecdotes from a variety of sources, including some from his distinguished career.
The first pillar was competence and Caldwell emphasized the importance of becoming expert in one’s specialty. He stressed leaders should understand success requires work and the leader must display humility, his second pillar, to attract genuine followers. Every leader must be comfortable in his or her own shoes and not shun the differences that make them unique. These characteristics helped demonstrate the third pillar, authenticity. Caldwell recalled his ascent to interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2009 in place of Tony Dungy. When asked before the season if he would mimic Dungy’s coaching style or use his own, Caldwell said he would use his own, because his style was what earned him the opportunity. The Colts captured the AFC Championship and a Super Bowl berth that year, and Caldwell credited it to the fact that he was an authentic leader, sticking to what he did best.
Caldwell identified motivation as his fourth pillar. He deemed it a leader’s responsibility to be positive, persistent, balanced, and to cast a vision that others can buy into. Caldwell told the student-athletes when he scouts a quarterback, he zeroes in on the signal-caller’s eyes, especially following a hard hit. Caldwell said the best quarterbacks and leaders are those who bounce up after a hit to see the play’s outcome, rather than worrying about the hit.
Passion was the fifth pillar, and Caldwell stressed championships are won with passion. He spoke of Ravens’ captain Ray Lewis and how his passion fueled the Ravens’ during their Super Bowl XLVII Championship season.
Caldwell’s final pillar was service. He called coaching a service business and suggested his responsibility as a coach is to take each athlete that walks into the Ravens’ organization where he cannot take himself.
Caldwell fielded questions from the students and posed for photos before immediately departing for Baltimore, where the Ravens had off-season meetings planned for the following morning. He discussed the similarities and the differences between NFL star quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco, as well as the Ravens’ needs in the upcoming NFL Draft.
The Guilford Athletics Leadership Forum is the brainchild of Guilford Athletics Hall of Famer and former college basketball coach Dave Odom ‘65. Odom coached with Caldwell at Wake Forest. Modeled after the school’s successful Bryan Series that has attracted world leaders to Greensboro since 2002, Odom hopes to provide Guilford student-athletes instruction and encouragement from notable figures, especially those with ties to athletics. He worked with his personal contacts to find speakers passionate about today’s youth and willing to visit Guilford. The speakers focused on the value of leadership, decision-making, overcoming adversity, and education.