Jacksonville State head football coach John Grass chose a unique way to end the Gamecocks practice on Wednesday, by driving an ice cream truck to the 50-yard line at Burgess-Snow Field.
After about an hour of what was scheduled to be a 90-minute workout in shorts and headgear, the three-time defending champion Gamecocks had their practice interrupted by the familiar chimes of an ice cream truck. Shortly after that, they were forced to move aside as their head coach drove it to midfield, where everyone involved with the program was treated to the ice cream of their choice.
(HEAR FROM COACH GRASS IN FEATURED VIDEO)
"You should've seen the guys' faces when I turned the music on as I rounded the corner," Grass said. "They knew what the music was, but I heard some of them ask 'what are they doing driving that ice cream truck onto the field?' Then they saw me driving it and then the team got really excited."
Grass added the surprise for his team at the end of the workout in an effort to "break the monotony of fall camp."
"We needed something to break the monotony of fall camp, so I thought this was a really good idea - to bring the ice cream truck out here, end practice a little early and let them all get ice cream," Grass said. "We needed a little excitement out here today," he said. "I say every day in fall camp is like Groundhog Day. It's a very monotonous time, but our guys are really handling that well. They come to work every day and get after it."
The surprise came after what was scheduled as a recovery day for the Gamecocks, who are prepping for their next workout in full pads on Thursday to prep for Saturday's second scrimmage of the fall.
"It was a little bit of a slower day for us, anyway," Grass added. "It was a recovery day - more of a teach day and a non-contact day, so it was good to end practice the way that we did."
Grass did elaborate on one position group after Wednesday's practice, lauding the play of the Gamecocks' safeties. He talked about a group led by returning starters Marlon Bridges and Ra'Shad Green, who started every game in the regular season a year ago. After a late injury to Green, Matravious Williams started alongside Bridges in the playoff game, meaning JSU returns every game started from 2016 at the safety spots.
Bridges, a sophomore from Lanett, Ala., was stellar in his redshirt-freshman campaign of 2016. He was named OVC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-OVC and All-American after leading the OVC in takeaways.
Green started 11 games in his senior campaign of 2016, but received word from the NCAA that he would be receiving a medical hardship and an extra year of eligibility less than two weeks before fall camp started.
"I have a lot of experience there," Grass said. "To get the surprise of getting a Ra'Shad Green back right before we started camp was huge. He played and started almost every game last year.
"Add that with Marlon Bridges, an All-America talent, and Tra Tra Williams, who played a ton of snaps for us last year, and we have a great foundation there. Then we have some talented young freshman that you will see play this year. We feel like we are shored up depth-wise at that position."
That group is led by co-defensive coordinator Brandon Hall, who Grass said is tasked with coaching one of the toughest positions on the field for his team.
"Coach Hall does a great job with those guys, and that is a hard position to play - one of the hardest positions that we have on the field to play," Grass added. "We ask a lot out of those guys, and when they're wrong - everybody in the stadium knows it. They do a great job of playing good, smart football."
JSU is prepping for the 2017 season, which opens on Aug. 26 in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff in Montgomery's Cramton Bowl. The Gamecocks will face Chattanooga in a 5:30 p.m. game that will be televised on ESPN.
Season tickets for JSU's five-game home schedule, as well as tickets to the opener in Montgomery and the second game of the season at Georgia Tech in Atlanta are available now in the JSU Ticket Office. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (256) 782-8499 or visit www.JSUGamecockSports.com/Tickets.
Fan Day is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. in Stephenson Hall. Admission is free, and the entire 2017 team will be on hand to sign posters, which will be provided for free.
(Courtesy: JSU Sports Information: www.jsugamecocksports.com)