In our fifteenth installment in this series, we were able to catch up with former Alabama wide receiver Matt Caddell. To get the complete interview, click here:
All throughout sports, the phrase “The Catch” is symbolic of a play that resulted in some form of a climatic result that usually brought jubilation to one set of fans and despair to the other. For the purposes of this article, there are far too many to name, but whether it’s Dwight Clark, Willie Mays, or Tyrone Prothro — fans have a mental image engraved in their minds anytime that phrase is uttered in sports circles.
For Matt Caddell, his play may not have made national sports history, but for Alabama fans, his catch has more symbolism attached to it than even he may have realized at the time he made it.
For those who remember, the 2007 season was the inaugural season for Nick Saban and the fanfare and excitement was of monumental proportions which started with a capacity filled stadium for the annual A-Day spring game. After starting the season 2-0, the Tide welcomed the Arkansas Razorbacks to Bryant-Denny Stadium for their first SEC game in the Saban-era and from the onset, things appeared to be looking up for the Tide. After racing out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, Alabama closed the first half up 24-10.
The roar from the fans reverberated throughout the city of Tuscalooosa, and the “Bama’s back” thoughts could be felt from the student section, all the way up the rafters to the highest levels of the stadium. While the Razorbacks started to move the ball more effectively, the Tide still managed to go into the fourth quarter up 31-17.
However, by that time, it was clear the momentum was shifting and the terrific running back duo led by Darren McFadden was just starting to get warmed up and eventually helped give his team the lead after his two fourth quarter touchdowns tied the game and a Peyton Hillis TD reception put them up 38-31.
The air was almost completely sucked out of the stadium and the inevitable “here we go again” thoughts began to creep into the minds of Tide fans watching on as this theme was all too familiar. You see, Alabama fans had gotten comfortable with the idea they couldn’t win the big games. Time and time again the pendulum swung in an unfavorable fashion and the close games always seemed to go to the other team.
But not that night.
On this night, Tide fans witnessed an official changing of the guard from the old regime to the new. With something as simple as an executed play call between two friends and veterans gave Alabama fans hope that Saban could truly bring championships back to the Capstone.
With 0:08 seconds left in the game, Wilson connected with Caddell in what would wind up being the game-winning TD catch and a new chapter in Alabama football history. What was interesting about this catch was it almost didn’t happen. According to Caddell, “I remember the defense stopped us the prior play and I told John-Parker Wilson if he wanted we could audible to another route. We broke the huddle and stuck with the called play, and we just connected and he threw a great ball and I just had to make a great play and catch it.”
Caddell, who’s quiet by nature, is not the type to overly boast or brag about his career exploits and may not have even realized the significance his play. Caddell was the recruit Alabama needed in a crucial period in time. From McAdory, there was quite a bit of pressure to attend the school Bo Jackson brought back to glory being the two attended the same high school. He was one of the top players in the state, and ever since the 1992 championship, he had a desire to one day suit up and play for the Crimson Tide.
From 2003-2007, Caddell had the esteemed privilege to do just that. Staying during a time of uncertainty, Caddell helped bridge the gap between unfamiliar territory among Tide fans to now a return to glory of the days of winning seasons and national championships.
Now Caddell is enjoying a life as a pharmaceutical sales rep. In addition to a wonderful career, he has found a hobby — or quite possibly his future calling in coaching. He’s recently worked with Carver High School and Bessemer City High School as a wide receiver coach. The thrill of helping teenagers the same way others did for him is a feeling that brings him joy, “I didn’t know I would enjoy it as much as I did. To be able to teach those kids about life and football as well as competing and winning is great — things I learned from Coach Saban.”
As Caddell continues to do great things in his life off the field, it’s hard to forget the iconic play he made that set the tone for fans to believe a new chapter could finally be turned, and spark Alabama on its way back to glory. Of course, it didn’t happen that year, but thanks to Caddell and others — things turned around rather quickly, and don’t appear to be slowing down for quite some time.