BELOIT, Wis. (AP) – Beloiters have known Jim Caldwell as a standout high school and Big Ten athlete, a long-time college football coach and finally the man who led the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl.
Are they ready for Caldwell as a documentary producer?
Caldwell visited his hometown recently to begin work on a project he and his wife, Cheryl, hope will be completed by June, 2011. They plan to produce a documentary about African-American history in Beloit.
“My wife is a real history buff and she has followed her lineage back as far as she can go,” Caldwell said. “She’s constantly pulling up something about one of her relatives that she didn’t know. She was looking at photos online about African-Americans in Beloit. There was a photo of some gentlemen who had finished working at Fairbanks Morse and were playing pool at the YMCA. Every one of them was dressed in a shirt and tie, dress slacks, shoes shined. Then you saw the dining hall that Fairbanks provided where they all ate. Every one of them had been working in the foundry all day, but it looked like they were going to church.
“Compared to today, where you have young people who have no pride in what they’re doing, it really struck a chord with me. We thought, let’s put something together to highlight and show some of the pride that used to go on in this city. Perhaps this will give us a chance to rekindle some of that old pride.”
Caldwell said the project will cover a number of topics, including education, business and athletics. Through interviews with key contributors as well as witnesses to events, the Caldwells hope to bring history to life.
“It’s a format they’re using for a series on HBO that seems very effective,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said he and his wife expect to learn right along with those who will eventually view the documentary.
“I believe that you never stop learning,” he said. “You always want to challenge yourself to learn something different and new. We knew this project would be quite an undertaking and it would take us some time to get it done. It’s something we can do together and since we’re both from Beloit, we have a great deal of interest in the city. My wife will do the majority of the research because I have a few other things to do, but there will be times I can assist.”
Caldwell spent a recent weekend checking different sources and potential interview subjects. He said the historic time frame he is particularly interested in will be from about 1880 to 1970.
For the look at sports, there is no shortage of potential subjects. Choosing whom to focus on will be the difficult decision. Beloit is rich in legendary athletes such as Johnny Watts, Eddie May, Jerry Kenney, LaMont Weaver and Frank Clarke as well as some Caldwell said are less well-known but important in their own right.
He had a great-great uncle who as an amateur boxer went by the ring name of “Tiger Lily.” He once sparred with heavyweight champion Joe Louis.
“Tiger Lily was an incredible physical specimen and while it’s difficult finding real records about him, there’s a lot of folklore,” Caldwell said.
While he played basketball on the playgrounds of Beloit against some of the all-time greats, such as former Globetrotter Everett Henry, Caldwell said the best player he ever saw was someone few Beloiters likely remember.
“James Lindsey was the best, without question,” Caldwell said. “I didn’t see Watts. He was before my time and some of the guys I did see were past their prime. But I saw all the Weavers and Bill Hanzlik and some of the others who came around later. They were real fine basketball players, but the absolute best player I ever saw around here was James Lindsey. He could have been a pro player. If Bernie Barkin was still around he’d tell you that.”
It’s a good thing Caldwell knows how to budget his time. Even during his brief stay in Beloit, he had film of college players to study, with the NFL draft coming up next month.
“I’m extremely busy,” he said. “Last year we finished on Jan. 3 and I took over on the 12th. This year we finished Feb. 7, so I feel like I’m a month behind.”
After attending the NFL Combine for select college seniors in Indianapolis, Caldwell then headed to the league meetings in Orlando, Fla., where several interesting rule changes took place.
“The one everyone is interested in is overtime,” he said, referring to a change which will give both teams a shot at the football if the team winning the coin toss kicks a field goal. “For us, it does add some spice. We have a great quarterback and it gives us a shot if we don’t win the toss. If our defense can hold them to three points, I think it benefits us with Peyton Manning. I think it will make teams play differently knowing that he’s there standing on the sideline.”
Caldwell said he has gotten past the disappointment of losing the Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints.
“I think any time you lose the last game of a season, regardless if it’s the Super Bowl, the first round of the playoffs or the last game of the regular season it’s going to linger a little bit,” he said. “I got through it. As soon as I got back from the Super Bowl, I watched it three times, play by play, watching every player. I got it out of my system. Now it’s time to move on. If you let those things linger too long, they can bother you the next season. ”
That isn’t easy, however, when reporters keep bringing it up.
“That’s their job,” Caldwell said. “We played well enough to accomplish three of four goals. We swept our division. We got into the playoffs, we secured home field advantage and we won the conference championship. There was only one thing left to do. We certainly feel good about what we got done. We just feel like we have some unfinished business to take care of.”
Caldwell said he doesn’t long for the days when he was an assistant without all the additional responsibility of the man in charge.
“To be honest, it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “There is nothing quite like it. (Philadelphia Eagles head coach) Andy Reid came up to me before an exhibition game and asked me how things were going. Then he gave me a wink and said, ‘This is a pretty good gig, isn’t it”? It is.”
The NFL draft is Caldwell’s current obsession since he “has to know every single guy on our draft board.” But he plans on returning to Beloit in late June with a camera crew to begin conducting interviews.
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