Caldwell to spend final year as Gator

Receiver stays, but three defensive standouts are leaving .

Published January 13, 2007

GAINESVILLE - There was something about holding that crystal football trophy that changed everything for Florida receiver Andre Caldwell.

Florida's 41-14 win over Ohio State in the BCS national title game Monday night led Caldwell to decide four days later he wants to return for his senior season.

"I'm staying," Caldwell said Friday. "We have a good opportunity to get back to the national championship game and one of my goals is to get back and win another national championship. Winning this one make me a lot more hungry."

Caldwell, from Jefferson High had considered leaving early for the NFL, but after much soul-searching and discussions with his brother, New England Patriots receiver Reche Caldwell, he told the UF coaching staff late Thursday night he would stay.

The news isn't all good for UF.

While Caldwell decided to stick around, several others are leaving. Defensive end Jarvis Moss and cornerback Ryan Smith told some coaches they will not return next season. And senior defensive end Joe Cohen said Friday that his longtime friend, junior safety Reggie Nelson, will forego his senior season.

Nelson lost his mother to breast cancer on Dec. 21 and has two younger siblings. Cohen said family is a major consideration for Nelson, a consensus All-American who had six interceptions this season.

"He's coming out," Cohen said. "He's already made his decision."

Smith, who led the Gators in interceptions this season with eight, earned his undergraduate degree from Utah in the summer before transferring to Florida in August. Moss played in 13 games and had 56 tackles, 42 solo. He will forever be remembered for blocking South Carolina's potential winning field goal to preserve Florida's victory in November.

For Caldwell, the decision was also a family affair, as he sought advice from his parents and his brother, a former Gator receiver.

"He told me, don't try to rush nothing, just follow your heart," Caldwell said. "Pro football will always be there. He said when you feel you're ready and you've done enough in college, then it's your time."

Caldwell suffered a season-ending broken leg in the 2005 season, and it took several games to get back where he felt comfortable. He played in all 14 games this season, and had 57 receptions for 577 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 21 carries for 102 yards and one rushing score, but believes he can be even better next season.

"With (quarterback Tim) Tebow coming back, he can get me the ball and I can have better numbers from this year," Caldwell said. "And I'll have enough playmakers around me so I don't get double (covered) all the time.

"I feel great about it," Caldwell said of his decision to stay. "It's good to get all that off my shoulders. I'm ready to get back to work and back into football in the next few weeks."