Daniel Bullocks — yes, the Daniel Bullocks who had two of Nebraska's nation-leading 32 interceptions in 2003 — clearly had adrenaline pumping through him early Thursday morning.
Even at 7 a.m., excitement was evident in his voice. After all, he's the safeties coach for the San Francisco 49ers, who square off against the Green Bay Packers at 7:15 p.m. Saturday in an NFL divisional round playoff game.
You know what that means. It means facing Aaron Rodgers, one of the best cold-weather quarterbacks of all time.
C'mon, he's one of the best all-time, period.
Yeah, the challenge had Bullocks' blood pumping two full days before game day.
"Man, for us, it's all about preparation," he said. "It's making sure our guys know exactly what the Packers do offensively in regards to the run game and also the pass game as far as what routes they're running out of certain formations. I want my guys to understand everything."
He also wants them to be able to deftly "change the picture" that Rodgers is seeing before the snap and after it.
A brilliant disguise can be useful against magicians.
"If Aaron Rodgers, the great quarterback, knows what you're in defensively from a coverage standpoint, the Packers can dice you up," said Bullocks, in his fifth season with the Niners overall and third as safeties coach.
The 38-year-old benefits from having three veterans in his position group: Jimmie Ward, an eighth-year Niners veteran from Northern Illinois; Jaquiski Tartt, a seventh-year Niner from Samford; and Jarrod Wilson, a six-year NFL veteran from Michigan who began the season with the New York Jets.
Wilson was an undrafted rookie with the Jaguars in 2016 when Bullocks was an assistant defensive backs coach with the organization.
Ward and Tartt are in their fourth seasons as Niners starters, meaning they experienced a Super Bowl in the 2019 season (a 31-20 loss to the Chiefs).
No question, Bullocks' comfort level with his crew is high.
You can hear that in his voice, too.
"There may be problems on the field that we can't fix as coaches," Bullocks said. "But having veterans like Jimmie and Jaquiski can fix those problems, and get all those guys in the back end on the same page."
Bullocks said his guys work hard. He said they're good tacklers — sound fundamentally all the way around.
Make no mistake, Bullocks was that way as a Nebraska safety from 2001 to 2005. A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, he arrived in Lincoln with his twin brother, Josh Bullocks, and they spent 2003 and 2004 playing alongside each other as starters in the secondary before Josh chose to pursue an NFL career. After Josh’s departure, Daniel stepped forward as a senior co-captain in 2005.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Daniel Bullocks posted one of the most complete careers ever by a Nebraska defensive back. His 226 career tackles are second-most ever by a member of the Husker secondary, while his 22 career pass breakups are most in school history by a safety. He finished with eight career interceptions to finish just outside the top 10.
He started each of the final 32 games of his collegiate career.
It seems many Nebraska fans forget that the 2005 Huskers recorded a nation-leading 50 sacks while also blocking seven kicks. Yes, seven blocked kicks.
Yeah, Nebraska used to block kicks.
My guess is, a large majority of Nebraska fans don't know Bullocks is part of the Niners' staff. He's never been a self-promoter. He's always quietly went about his work, according to Bill Busch, who in 2005 coached NU's special teams and safeties, and recently was hired for another stint coaching the Huskers' special teams (and perhaps part of the secondary, although nothing is officially finalized on that front).
Did Busch notice anything in particular about Daniel Bullocks as a player that indicated he could become a high-level NFL coach?
"Everything led me to believe it," Busch said. "He was the hardest worker, the smartest guy in the room. He has an even-keel NFL coaching personality. It's a lot different in the NFL. Everyone knows it. If you watch the sideline, it's just laser calm pretty much no matter what's going on. A lot of it is because you're coaching adults.
"Another thing to mention about Daniel is he has a very quiet, dry sense of humor," Busch added. "He's really funny. We had a lot of good laughs. Plus, he was just ridiculously coachable. He understood the game so well, every facet of it. He showed up at Nebraska as a grown man, that's the best way to put it."
Nowadays, Bullocks is most certainly a grown man — married with four children — with a challenging job.
Especially when it comes to facing Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau Field. The temperature is expected to be in the teens at kickoff.
"Just thinking about it, everything that we dreamed about as a team and hoped for before the season is right here within our reach," Bullocks said. "We just have to go out and do it in Lambeau. Definitely, the pressure's up. It's fun, man, I'll tell you that."
You definitely could hear it in his voice, even at 7 a.m.