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The Northwestern State football team has canceled the remainder of its season after the death of junior safety Ronnie Caldwell.
“Ronnie was a beloved member of our community, and we miss him dearly,” President Marcus Jones said in a statement released Thursday.
“While our instinct was to return to the field of play following his death, we’ve since learned that the hurt on our team was too deep. Now it is in the best interest of our players, coaches, and staff to pause and to take this time to mourn, to heal, and to support Ronnie’s family.”
The school has also accepted the resignation of head coach Brad Laird, who was in his sixth season as the Demons’ head coach.
“Due to the loss of Ronnie and the emotional burden it has caused me, I don’t feel I can give my all to these players or this program,” Laird said.
“Any coach will tell you that their players become like family, so the loss of Ronnie was like losing a son. I love this program and this university and I know it will persevere and move forward with the competitive spirit that is at the core of our DNA.”
Police found Caldwell, 21, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds at the Quad (Frog Pond) Apartments on University Parkway in Natchitoches, Louisiana, during the early morning hours of Thursday, Oct. 12, per a police statement relayed by the Natchitoches Parish Journal. The Natchitoches Parish Coroner’s Office pronounced Caldwell deceased as a result of those injuries.
Two men have been arrested in connection with Caldwell’s death, per a KTBS-TV report.
Police detained 27-year-old John McIntosh, Caldwell’s roommate, on possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance. He has since been released from a detention center on bond.
Police also arrested Caldwell’s ex-teammate, 22-year-old Maurice Campbell II, on “obstruction of justice, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm in the presence of a controlled dangerous substance.”
Campbell, a defensive tackle, played four games for the Demons this year. He is no longer listed on the roster.
Neither man has been arrested on murder charges in response to Caldwell’s passing.
Caldwell had not played yet this season due to injury but stayed around the team and served as a “de facto defensive assistant coach” this year, per a NWSU athletic department statement.
Laird also issued this statement soon after Caldwell’s death.
“The Northwestern State family has suffered a tremendous loss. Ronnie Caldwell was a young man who had a bright future ahead of him on or off the football field. He was our voice in the locker room. When Ronnie spoke, others listened. The respect our football team had for Ronnie was evident. He did not play a snap this year because of an injury, but his voice resonated with every member of our team from the first player to the 115th on our roster.
“Our hearts are broken and ache for Ronnie’s family and friends. His loss will be felt here at Northwestern State, in Natchitoches and in his home. We will treasure the time we spent with Ronnie and the memories we made, and we will hold him and his family in our hearts as we attempt to move forward in the days and weeks ahead.”
Per the Natchitoches Parish Journal, Caldwell made the Southland Conference Commissioner’s Fall Honor Roll in 2022 for having a 3.0 minimum GPA. He majored in business administration and had plans to “open a health-focused business” after graduating.
The transfer from Tyler Junior College in Texas also served as a youth baseball coach last summer in Natchitoches.