By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
VERO BEACH – Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh gave the Bulls a great piece of advice while making an appearance at practice last week.
“You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,” the Super Bowl champion said.
Head coach Willie Taggart and his staff decided to use Harbaugh’s camp approach 3 a.m. Wednesday when they cruised through Vero Beach Sports Village pumping music, beeping horns, banging on windows and opening doors to make sure every Bull was out of bed for a three-hour scrimmage that started around 4:30 a.m. at historic Holman Stadium.
“We’re going back to work, man,” Taggart said before practice. “We said at the beginning of camp, ‘We have to be comfortable being uncomfortable,’ and I want our guys want to come out and play football no matter what the situation is. It’s time to play ball and we’re looking to see how our guys respond.”
Senior defensive end Julius Forte got a kick out of the whole situation while walking to the stadium, although he didn’t know what to think when the coaches were creating chaos outside of the players’ rooms.
“I woke up startled like it was a tornado. I was like, “What’s going on?” Forte said. “You’re just hitting that good sleep where you’re dosing off and having good dreams. You might have Halle Berry or somebody knocking at your door but when you see coach (Marquel) Blackwell at the door you’re like, ‘Hey, you’re not Halle Berry!”
“We get to play under the lights. I guess that’s the cool thing about it,” sleepy senior safety Mark Joyce added. “I practiced at midnight in high school but never got ready for one at 3 in the morning.”
The Bulls proved they were up for the task after the memorable 15-minute wakeup call by showing the same intensity the team provides during afternoon sessions at camp. Running back Marcus Shaw broke off a long touchdown run at the beginning of practice that got the offense going while Joyce and the defense brought the noise with huge hits and group celebrations after big plays.
“Things will happen out of our control all the time. There’s nothing we can do about it, just respond the best we can,” Forte said.
Taggart was happy to see the Bulls pass the test that ended with watching the start of the sun rising while players walked back to the locker room.
“It was fun riding around screaming [waking up the players] and seeing some of those guys but I’ll tell you something that was interesting. I thought there would be a lot more moaning and groaning but I didn’t hear anything. I was impressed,” Taggart said.
So impressed that Taggart surprised the team again with an announcement, but this one was much more kind to his early risers. USF’s reward for its early morning toughness was a relaxing afternoon trip to the beach.