DENHAM SPRINGS — Caleb Roddy kept staring at the dying cell phone in his massive right hand, anxiously waiting on either a call or text message from LSU defensive line coach Ed Orgeron.
Roddy had just completed what he believed to be a solid showing in LSU’s first summer football camp, one he thought could produce a coveted scholarship offer from the Tigers.
Roddy — a 6-foot-5, 253-pound defensive end — went into LSU’s camp with 31 scholarship offers from schools ranging North Carolina to Oregon but there was one glaring omission in the mind of the rising senior from Denham Springs High.
“I always wanted to play in Tiger Stadium,” Roddy said. “The fans are crazy.”
Roddy had June 8 — his one-day workout at LSU — circled on his calendar for weeks. That’s where Orgeron would make his first evaluation of one of the nation’s fastest-rising defensive end prospect, telling Roddy a favorable performance could result in an offer.
Roddy was flying high after a morning that featured work on fundamentals, pass-rushing drills and the all-important 1-on-1s, where he said he won 19 out of 20 matchups, drawing praise from both Orgeron and LSU coach Les Miles.
“I came in thinking I knew where I wanted to go,” said Roddy, who also lowered his 40-yard dash time to 4.82. “I was doing everything as good as I could. It was probably the best day of my life. It was amazing to hear coach Miles in the back saying, ‘great job Caleb’ when I beat someone.”
For a couple of fleeting moments, Roddy was resigned to the fact his day may not have been good enough. He signed out of camp and was preparing to leave when a graduate assistant coach called his name, asking that he meet in Oregeron’s office.
“Coach O hadn’t called and my phone had three percent (battery life) left,” Roddy said. “When I heard my name called, I was like, ‘yes’.”
Oregeron commended Roddy for his effort and determination when the two met. Further superlatives made Roddy’s heart race even faster, followed by an invitation to realize a childhood dream.
Did he want to want to play for the Tigers?
“We had to make it official and walked into Coach Miles’ office,” Roddy said. “He said he loved the way I played and would fight for the Tigers and offered me. I committed right there, and we shook hands on it. Why wait? I just did it.”
That Roddy joined LSU’s current top-five nationally ranked recruiting class was a development not even could have predicted less than two years ago.
“I liked LSU as a kid,” Roddy said, “but never saw myself playing there because I didn’t think I was good enough.”
Roddy grew up playing both basketball and football, never lacking for athletic ability or size. He was a two-year letter winner on Denham Springs’ varsity basketball team and was a varsity starter at tight end as a sophomore when he reached a crossroads in his life.
By the end of the football season, Roddy had ballooned to 300 pounds — a gain of 35 pounds during the season — when he harshly criticized himself for arriving at such a juncture.
“I looked in the mirror wondering what happened,” he said. “I used to be quick and fast and people feared me in Little League and now I looked like a pillow. I had to get it together.”
Following the Christmas break, Roddy began working out regularly and eating better; eventually trimming 57 pounds off his 6-foot-5 frame. By the time the Yellow Jackets lined up for spring practice, he weighed 235 pounds and had moved to defensive end.
A much lighter and stronger Roddy proved to be a lethal combination for opponents to handle. The first team All-Metro selection played a vital role in the Jackets’ 7-5 season which included the school’s first playoff victory in 25 years, registering 78 tackles, with 20 stops behind the line, 12 sacks and five passes broken up.
“He stepped over there, matured and went to some camps and just continued to play better and better,” DSHS coach Dru Nettles said. “His quickness and length made a huge factor as we continued to play better as a team.”
Roddy’s transformation — both literally and figuratively — grabbed the attention of most of the national recruiting services, ranking among not only the state’s top five prospects but the best 30 defensive ends across the country.
College recruiters were out in full force for a closer look at Roddy last month during Denham Springs’ spring workouts.
“He’s a big guy that’s athletic and qualified,” Nettles said. “As his (highlight) tape got out more college coaches wanted to see him. We had as many coaches from across the country as we’ve had in a long time.”
During a dizzying seven-month stretch Roddy received 28 scholarship offers. There were unofficial visits to some of his schools of interest that including Arkansas, Tennessee and Ole Miss, but none of them had the lure hometown LSU did.
“Recruiting’s over,” said Roddy, who will participate in The Opening next month in Eugene, Ore. “LSU’s the school I’d been waiting on. That’s where I wanted to go.”