STATE COLLEGE — When people visited Beaver Stadium, home of Penn State Nittany Lion football, Saturday for the annual Blue and White game they likely didn’t know that there’s a little piece of Clearfield County at its heart.
The stadium’s facility coordinator is a native of Clearfield County. Brad Caldwell grew up in Curwensville, attended Curwensville Area High School where he graduated in 1982 and still comes back home on occasion to visit family that lives in the county.
Caldwell said it was his eighth grade science teacher who inspired his career.
“(Mike) Keely is the one that started me on this path,” Caldwell said. Fascinated with space exploration as a youth, he said he aspired to work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in missions control. Caldwell, who has scoliosis, said he knew he did not have physical capability to be an astronaut but that did not lessen his captivation with outer space. “I have Mr. Keely to thank for really getting me involved with astronomy.”
Caldwell said during summer vacation, following the completion of his eighth grade year, he got a call from Keely, who was Curwensville’s junior high football coach, asking whether he was interested in serving as the team’s manager. “He told me I think you’d be a good fit. I was hesitant but I talked with my friend who was a member of the football team and he encouraged me to do it.”
Caldwell said he served as the junior high football team manager for one week when he received the offer of a promotion from varsity Coach Lyle Domico. “They saw me and I was told later that the coaches were concerned because they kept loosing managers every year to graduation. They were looking for someone they could train early who would stay with the team for several years.”
Caldwell said he told Keely who urged him to take the position advancement. “He said, It would be a great opportunity for you.”
During his school career, Caldwell went on to serve as team manager for a number of varsity sports naming football, wrestling and baseball. When he was a high school senior, he received special recognition for his work. “I got a special award – a watch engraved with ‘outstanding contribution to athletics.’”
When it was presented Keely jokingly told Caldwell not to forget who started him out as manager. “He also turned and pointed to his wife, who was pregnant at the time, and said I hope that kid turns out to be half the kid you are.” In a strange turn of events, Caldwell said Keely’s son Joshua Keely works for NASA in missions control.
Caldwell graduated from Curwensville and began attending Penn State University, DuBois campus, studying aerospace engineering. While at the DuBois campus, in 1983 he learned of an position as a student manager at the school’s University Park campus in State College. He said Domico had recommended him.
He quickly transferred to University Park, although he had to change his major because of the time commitment.
He graduated in 1986 with a degree in recreation and park management – a year Caldwell remembers fondly because he was the head student manager the year the Nittany Lions won the national football championship beating the Miami Hurricanes.
In 1987, Caldwell was hired as the assistant equipment manager and in 1999 advanced to head equipment manager where he remained until June 2014 when he retired from the position and moved to Vermont, with his wife, ready to enjoy life at a slower pace.
“I retired with mixed emotions. The best part of the job was all the great people I met and worked with over the years, also the traveling and seeing different parts of the country. I loved going to the away games and the 23 bowl games that I was fortunate enough to be a part of,” he said.
After a health scare and a nagging feeling that he couldn’t seem to shake about his decision, Caldwell quickly realized he had not been ready to leave the Penn State fold. At the end of 2014, a job opened up as Beaver Stadium’s facility coordinator and Caldwell applied and got the job.
As facility coordinator, he takes care of special events at the stadium – making the arrangements for weddings, meetings and banquets. “I am like a social coordinator. I make the arrangements. I work with the caterers and set up for events. I oversee the maintenance. My work is mainly in the south end of the stadium where the suites and offices are,” he explained.
Caldwell also gives tours and coordinates club seats sales. “I still pinch myself when I drive by the stadium and know that I have the keys to it. I am amazed that I have had with bowl games. It’s so amazing and I feel so fortunate.”
He also reserves a soft spot for his hometown. “I love Curwensville and all that it has given me. It gave me a great start. It really did make an impact.”