JoePa helped launch Colts’ Caldwell to Super Bowl |

JoePa helped launch Colts’ Caldwell to Super Bowl

MIAMI – Jim Caldwell has a staff of 16 assistant coaches, plus a deep supply of friends and confidants who helped him steer the Indianapolis Colts into the Super Bowl.

Count JoePa among those who got Caldwell off to a great start.

Longtime Penn State coach Joe Paterno – major college football’s all-time win leader – hired Caldwell as a wide receivers coach in 1986, and the words he spoke then still resonate deeply with the Colts’ rookie boss now.

One quote in particular stuck with Caldwell.

“Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves,” Caldwell recalled Wednesday.

In many ways, Penn State was Caldwell’s big coaching break. During his time with the Nittany Lions, he worked with Kerry Collins when he was considered college football’s top quarterback, and worked his way up the ranks to passing game coordinator, plus was part of a national championship.

By the time Caldwell left Penn State, he was ready for a head coaching gig, which Wake Forest gave him in 1993. Caldwell worked for some other top-notch college coaches as well – Howard Schnellenberger and Bill McCartney among them – but Paterno’s words echo loudest to this day.

“I worked for him for seven years and I think he’s one of the finest teachers in the game,” Caldwell said.

JUST FOR KICKS: Adam Vinatieri is still kicking around for the Indianapolis Colts.

Known for making last-second field goals in big games, Vinatieri doesn’t figure to get into the Super Bowl on Sunday against New Orleans. He had surgery on his right knee in mid-October and has played just once since then.

The Colts signed Matt Stover to fill in for Vinatieri, and the 42-year-old replacement has delivered. Stover made nine of 11 field goals in the regular season, and is perfect on five tries in the playoffs.

This is Vinatieri’s sixth trip to the NFL championship game. He won three Super Bowl rings with New England and another with the Colts three years ago.

“I’ve been kicking for the last few weeks,” he said Wednesday. “I may not be 100 percent, but I’m good enough to go through a game.”

Coach Jim Caldwell hasn’t given any indication he’d switch away from Stover. Teams have until gameday to set their active roster for the Super Bowl.

“Until then, there’s always a chance,” Vinatieri said.

Vinatieri has one year left on his Colts’ contract, and is planning on being their No. 1 kicker next season.

“The doctors say there’s no reason I shouldn’t have 100 percent recovery,” he said. “I’m expecting to be on the team next year.”

FAMILY AFFAIR: Reggie Bush’s celebrity girlfriend and her family are doing their superstitious best to help the Saints running back in the Super Bowl.

Kim Kardashian’s stepfather, Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner, said she will be joined in Miami by her mother, Kris, and brother, Rob – the same group that attended the NFC playoff game when Bush scored on an 83-yard punt return and a spectacular 46-yard run in a 45-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

“That combination seems to be working,” Jenner said Wednesday in New York while promoting a campaign to raise awareness for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

ECKEL REMEMBERS: Once again, the Super Bowl will be seen and heard live by U.S. soldiers stationed around the world, including those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

New Orleans fullback Kyle Eckel said he’ll think of those servicemen and servicewomen on Sunday.

The military remains in Eckel’s mind, and that makes sense considering he played for Navy before embarking on his NFL career.

“They’ve got the hardest job in the world,” Eckel said. “Sometimes it might seem thankless, but I hope they know that’s not true. I hope they know that guys like me and guys here appreciate it every single day.”

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