Tuesday’s practice started and ended like none of Mullen’s previously had. Shortly after stretching the players lined up in positions groups for a 1-on-1 blocking drill that instantly set the tone for the first practice in pads.
“It was fun,” Mullen said of the drill. “We watched it. We showed it beforehand, and I thought the guys did a pretty good job with that. We’ll do it again Thursday. Just had some fun. There was some hooting and hollering going on. They had a good time.”
The start of practice was fun and games but there was a lesson to be learned after the game. Mullen met with the players and after breaking it down he informed the team that some of them had missed class and been late to class. That meant lining up on the west sideline of the practice field, running to the east sideline and back. Over and over again.
“They weren’t real happy,” Mullen said. “That was pretty simple, that was about going to class. I don’t control that, they control that. If you’re late for class, everybody that’s late for a class would run a gasser for it. If they don’t wanna run gassers, then show up on time for class and we don’t run gassers.”
Mullen wasn’t a spectator, the head coach who has run the Boston Marathon, joined in with his players as well, running alongside with them.
“I’m part of the team, so I should run the gassers too, you know? And make sure I’m not just standing there telling them to do it,” he said. “So if they ever look and say, ‘Hey, you just stand there with a whistle,’ I’m — hey, if you guys mess up — if we make mistakes, we’re all gonna pay the price. Whether it’s discipline issues, academic issues, football issues, training issues, we all pay the price, and so I’m gonna pay the price just like them.”
Gassers after a three-hour practice aren’t fun for anyone, even lighter defensive backs and receivers but it’s especially challenging for the big offensive and defensive linemen. Elijah Conliffe, in particular had trouble after the first couple.
That’s when senior C’yontai Lewis stepped up and out of line. Lewis finished a gasser, turned around and joined Conliffe, first jogging next to his teammate to encourage him. When Conliffe was slow off the line after the next whistle Lewis literally got behind the big defensive tackle and pushed him from the west sideline to the east sideline. Lewis was voted by his teammates as one of eight players to serve on the Gators’ leadership committee and acts like this demonstrate why that was the case.
If some guy is struggling, somebody else better push him and you better work together as a team. I think that was the biggest thing to me,” Mullen said. “Making sure that we understand that everyone out there, our goal is to win the game and that everything we do is about working together as a team — not just as an offensive guy or a defensive guy or ‘hey I don’t want this guy to push me.’ Well, he should push you if you’re not living up to the standards and expectations of the program. Everybody should push you.”