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Caldwell finding his place again

After a scary hit, the Gators receiver jogs back to his teammates, who were holding their collective breath.

By IAN FISHER
Published September 10, 2006


GAINESVILLE - Florida's players thought it was happening again.

After Andre Caldwell reeled in a 25-yard touchdown pass Saturday night, UCF's Jason Venson's thigh hit Caldwell's head hard and Caldwell stayed down for a few too many seconds.

It was a scary thing for his teammates to witness, considering Caldwell missed most of last season after breaking his right leg in the third game of the season against Tennessee.

"I was running over to him and I was just like, 'Hey! We scored, we scored!' " center Steve Rissler said. "We were all trying to get him up; he was kind of dazed a little bit. He took a shot."

After a few seconds, he got up, jogged back to the sideline, then ran into the locker room at the half, not only to the relief of his teammates, but perhaps the entire stadium.

Later, in the third quarter, Caldwell, a former Jefferson High star, caught an 8-yarder from Chris Leak, capping a four-catch, 51-yard game. That may not sound like a lot, but from where he was, it was good for the players to see, Bubba being Bubba.

"He seems like the same old Bubba to me," Leak said. "His quickness, his speed, it's all there."

Caldwell dropped two passes early, but after that, he was back.

"I think he had a dropped pass or something, but that's not a big deal; it's going to happen," Rissler said. "He scored two touchdowns, which is huge, and he was out there jumping around. It was a lot of fun."

Caldwell, the 6-foot-1 202-pound redshirt junior, was unavailable for comment after the game.

Although all his teammates said he looked like the same old Caldwell, coach Urban Meyer wasn't so sure.

"I think we finally knocked the rust off of Bubba. I hope we did," Meyer said. "He's still not Bubba Caldwell. He's a guy that made a couple nice plays there at the end, but he's still not that same dynamic player. We have to get him back because this program needs Bubba Caldwell at full speed."

Whether he was at full speed, his teammates were happy to see him on the field, making plays again.

"I felt good for him," receiver Jemalle Cornelius said. "It felt real good to see him come back and battle through all the stuff he had to go through."