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Veteran coach still in the game helping young athletes build character

Doug Caudill in 50th year pursuing dream job in high school football


If Doug Caudill has a coach’s shirt in his closet for every school he’s coached, opening the door is like looking at a rainbow.

This year marks the 50th that the veteran coach is pursuing his favorite job of working with a football team.

Since that first day in 1973 when he was a college student and volunteer assistant at old Central Junior High School, Caudill has worked for more than a dozen senior, middle and junior high schools, making multiple stops at some to include Seventy-First, Hope Mills Junior High, South View, Gray’s Creek and, currently, Cape Fear, where he’s worked on three different stints.

He recently bumped into one of the many head coaches he has worked with, fellow longtime Cumberland County coach Ronnie Luck. Luck joked with Caudill that he is going to die in office, as he’ll be turning 71 in September.

“Coaching is like a virus,” Caudill said. “I’ve got it, and I can’t get rid of it.”

But it’s a benevolent virus that has kept Caudill doing the thing he loves and providing a service in return.

“I just love being around the kids,” he said, “and the camaraderie of the coaches.”

He enjoys his relationship with the current Cape Fear coaching staff, which is composed of young men who make Caudill feel like a grandfather. “They take care of me, and I do my best because I love them,” he said. “They are great people. I think they do a great job of coaching too.”

Unfortunately for Caudill, there are limits to what he can do these days because of an incident in 2016 when he was still working on the sidelines at Cape Fear during the best football season in school history.

That year, the Colts put together a 15-1 record, going unbeaten until the state championship game when they fell to traditional power Greensboro Dudley 54-0.

In those days, Caudill was still a sideline coach, but in one of Cape Fear’s playoff wins he was seriously injured.

Late in the game, when Cape Fear had victory clinched, a player for the opposing team ran out of bounds at the end of a play and flattened Caudill.

Caudill lay on the ground semiconscious. He suffered a bruised heart and had compression fractures in his back, and his blood pressure dropped dramatically.

Dr. Charles Haworth, Fayetteville neurosurgeon, had to insert metal rods in Caudill’s back.

Caudill said the doctor joked with him that he was like Humpty Dumpty, but the doctor didn’t want to try to put him back together again. That meant for safety reasons, Caudill’s days of being on the sidelines would have to end.

So Caudill and Cape Fear worked together to create a role for him at the school. He became what Caudill likes to call the gofer coach.

He’s frequently seen riding Cape Fear’s gator, the green and gold utility vehicle that is a staple on high school football practice fields, transporting equipment, supplies and water to and fro.

“They said as long as I wanted to, I could be a part (of the program),” Caudill said.

But it’s not just a matter of giving Caudill busy work to give him a place on the staff.

Cape Fear head coach Jake Thomas said the kind of experience Caudill brings to the team is invaluable, along with his commitment to getting things done.

“No job is too small,” Thomas said. “Whenever we need or whatever he sees to get done, we don’t have to ask him to get done. He’s just a huge addition.”

Thomas added that Caudill is usually one of the first to arrive and the last to leave practice every day.

“For a guy that’s been doing it as long as he has, it says a lot about his work ethic, his character,” Thomas said.

Thomas also believes Caudill is a great example to the Cape Fear players, displaying qualities that would be good for them to acquire as they mature into adults.

Beyond the game

Caudill is afraid people don’t fully appreciate all the different jobs football coaches do that go far beyond the brief glimpse they get of what happens at games on Friday nights.

From doing laundry to mentoring the athletes and talking with them, Caudill said, the coaching profession is truly a brotherhood working toward a common goal. But Caudill said that goal isn’t just about winning a few football games.

“The common goal is making men that are going to be successful as fathers and whatever profession they choose,” he said.

He cited Jaylen Hudson, who is now at Wake Forest and is among the last players Caudill actually coached on the field.

Hudson was recently announced as one of 136 national nominees for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team.

All nominees must be actively involved with a charitable organization or service group and maintain high academic standing.

“That’s the kind of kid he is” Caudill said of Hudson. “I’m working to get kids to be that way.”

While Hudson represents the handful of athletes who will play at the college level or higher, Caudill said he’s just as concerned about the young men who will be done with their careers in team sports once they graduate high school.

“They are going to be fathers and men and have a profession,” he said.

Caudill said the key is giving them the opportunity to make good at all of that.

“That’s one of the reasons I love being around those guys at Cape Fear,” he said. “Winning is not the only thing to them. It’s special, and to me Cape Fear is a special place.”

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on Twitter: @EarlVaughanJr

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Cumberland County, Fayetteville, football, high school, sports