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Lions' Caldwell coached beleaguered Elrod

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
In this Dec. 9, 2006 file photo Tommy Elrod walks on the field while he was serving as assistant coach at Wake Forest University. Elrod, who has served as a radio announcer for the Deacons football games since 2014, has been identified by Wake Forest as the source of leaked game plans found at the University of Louisville.

The name Tommy Elrod probably doesn’t mean much to Detroit Lions fans, but coach Jim Caldwell knows the former Wake Forest player, coach and announcer well.

Elrod played four years under Caldwell as a walk-on, backup quarterback and later served a dozen years as a graduate assistant and assistant coach for Jim Grobe, Caldwell’s replacement at Wake Forest. After Grobe resigned, Elrod wasn’t retained, but took a role in the booth for the school’s radio broadcast.

Elrod made national news last week when an investigation determined he was leaking game plan information to Wake Forest’s opponents.

“I can only tell you I know what I know,” Caldwell said. “I know that young man very well, played for me, model student, model citizen, great family background. I can’t tell you anything else about (the scandal). He’s always been a very fine worker and obviously looks like he’s made some mistakes.”

Caldwell said he’s stayed in contact with Elrod over the years, but hasn’t spoken to him since his dismissal earlier this week.

Football is a highly secretive game. Many teams go to extraordinary lengths to protect every shred of data, from practice routines to injury information. Perhaps that’s an over-correction to the amount of information readily available via statistics, trends and film.

Lions' Matthew Stafford experiments with glove setups

Still, Caldwell said things are far different than when he started coaching more than four decades ago.

“I mean, a long time ago, there’d be some instances, recorded instances, where guys were scouting other teams and hiding in buildings across the street and filming and all kinds of stuff way back when and I think that’s certainly become less and less,” Caldwell said. “I think the ethics around our sport, I think, have been pretty good for the most part, but you know, there are controls that we try and utilize just to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

When Caldwell was at Penn State, he said an individual from an opposing school was caught rifling through the school’s trash.

“I didn’t catch him, somebody else, one of the janitor and someone else caught him or the custodian there and someone else caught him, so one of the G.A.s,” Caldwell said. “On if the guy admitted to searching through the trash: “You know what it was so long ago, you know, they got him out of the building rather quickly. It wasn’t like he was prosecuted or anything of that nature.”