Ex-Tide lineman Gulledge says he's making friends at JSU
by Al Muskewitz
Aug 13, 2013 | 6622 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE – Caleb Gulledge walked into his first day of practice with the Jacksonville State football team with all the emotions of a kid on his first day at a new school.

In addition to the usual uncertainty about getting from one place to another, he was oh so hopeful of quickly making new friends.

Coming down a level from Alabama could make building new relationships even more stressful for a redshirt freshman offensive lineman.

Not to worry. He said that so far, he’s being treated “great” by his new teammates.

“I didn’t know what to expect from the guys because I didn’t know them very well,” said Gulledge, who transferred from Alabama this week. “I was familiar with the coaches and everything there, but the guys really made me feel welcome, making sure I’m comfortable everywhere.

“Some people may have thought since I came from Alabama I expect to come in and be the man. If it’s my team, I want the best people to play no matter what. If I’m not the best person, I won’t play. That’s always how I’d been. As much as I love to play the game, I’d rather win and sit on the sideline than lose and be on the field.”

Gulledge joined the Gamecocks for two-a-days Monday and practiced in helmet and shorts for the second straight day Tuesday. He’ll work in shells the next two days before going in full pads for the first time Friday. The Gamecocks scrimmage again Saturday.

Going in the lightest of gear while his new teammates are pounding through the reps in full pads hasn’t been easy for him.

“I can’t lie to you, it’s killing me,” he said. “Sitting there and watching my leg would get stiff from standing. I’ve never been used to this before. I just want to get out there and show the boys and the coaches what I can do.”

Gulledge was a three-star recruit out of Prattville and was running second-team in the spring when he was declared medically disqualified for what Tide coach Nick Saban called an “chronic medical issue.”

Gulledge doesn’t like to talk about his situation, but, as media reports in 2010 disclosed, the Tide hasn’t been a program to waste any time encouraging underperforming players to quit to open roster spots for better players.

He was plagued by what he called a “small back issue” that created “some confusion.” Although he said it was “mind blowing” some of the things that transpired, he said it was his decision to leave.

“I guess I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation,” he said. “My father had back problems and he just didn’t want me to press it and go right back in it and just tear it up again. I kind of took the process slow trying to make sure I’m healthy.”

Now, he says he feels “great,” not experiencing any pain in weeks. He’s likely to be a tackle in the Gamecocks’ offense.

“I’m running good, back up to full speed,” he said. “I feel good with my feet and planting and moving back and forth.”

And that is one of the things that made him appealing to Clark. Gulledge was a defensive lineman before moving to the other side of the ball, so he’s quick and agile for a 6-foot-4, 280-pound player.

And they know each other. Gulledge played at Prattville while Clark was coaching there, but was just an eighth-grader when the Gamecocks’ head coach left for South Alabama and never actually played for him.

That changed after a chance meeting to JSU to visit a Gamecocks player he used to play against.

Now that he’s back in the game, he couldn’t be happier.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Gulledge said. “I don’t know if I can put it into words. I’m just glad the Lord blessed me with another chance and put me around great people and somewhere I really feel comfortable right now.

“For a moment I thought it was gone. It’s mind blowing some of the things that happened. I just thank God for the opportunity to come back and get the chance, especially here, a great place and great people.”

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.
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