Former Florida receiver Donald “Reche” Caldwell died Saturday night when he was apparently ambushed by gunmen and shot in Tampa, according to reports. He was 41.
“I hated to hear that,” said Steve Spurrier, his coach at Florida. “He had no problems when he was with us at Florida. He and Jabar Gaffney and Taylor Jacobs, they were about as good as Ike (Hilliard), Reidel (Anthony) and Quezzie (Jacquez Green) during those 1995 and ‘96 years.
“It’s sad to hear.”
Caldwell was a second-team, All-SEC selection in 2001 when he posted the eighth best total in UF single season history with 1,059 yards. He finished his career with 2,088 receiving yards and 18 touchdown catches, leaving school a year early to enter the NFL draft.
“I’m really still trying to process it,” said former teammate Jacobs. “He was a great guy, a great friend. It’s just so sad. My heart goes out to the family. I’m at a loss for words.”
Caldwell spent six years in the NFL after being drafted by San Diego in the second round of the 2002 draft, finishing with 152 catches for 1.851 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also played for the Patriots and Redskins.
“He was a quarterback when we recruited him, but he wanted to play wide receiver,” Spurrier said. “He knew that would be where he’d have a chance to play in the pros. He was quick, good hands. He made the adjustment pretty easily.”
After his pro career, Caldwell spent some time in prison, receiving a 27-month sentence for receiving an illegal package of a less potent version of the drug MDMA. Then his past January, he pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, along with several other former NFL players, who filed nearly $4 million in false insurance claims over a span of 18 months. He was set to be sentenced this month.
His brother Andre (Bubba) Caldwell also was a productive wide receiver at Florida and had eight seasons in the NFL.
The mother of the family Deborah was quoted by TMZ as saying of Reche, “He was a good person who smiled all of the time. He tried to help everyone he could. He was the type of guy who would take his shirt off his back and give it to you.”
Former UF teammates Rex Grossman and Ran Carthon also remembered Caldwell on Sunday.
“I’m sad that Reche is no longer with us, but if you knew knew Reche, your heart should be filled with laughter,” Carthon wrote on his Twitter account. “There was only one Reche! And although I’m sad, I’m thinking of my many Reche stories. #RIPReche”
Grossman tweeted: “RIP Reche. You were one of my favorite teammates of all time. I will always remember our time at Florida for your unreal talent, infectious humor, and our shared success as a team. You will be missed by all your Gator family.”