Published: August 1, 2013
A few weeks ago, Broam Hart was at the controls of an F-16, taking the fighter jet on a full roll high over Arizona terrain.
"The scariest 10 seconds of my life," said the Air Force fullback.
Each member of the football team shared similar summer experiences as they scattered throughout the country and world. So their minds were clearly on other things for the past two months.
On Thursday, they all got back together on the field for an efficient, but at times sloppy, first day of practice with 30 days remaining before the season opener Aug. 31.
"I'm sure it's the same way for teams all over the nation, but especially here," Hart said. "We're just getting together as a team.
"Of course there's going to be bumps and bruises on the first day and obstacles. It's like that every year, but we're going to clean it up."
Until everyone arrives, it's never clear if a player or two might opt out of the academy, but no players on the depth chart were missing on the first day.
Now the uncertainty turns back to figuring out who will step into the multitude of open positions for the Falcons, particularly on the offensive side.
Hart seems to have a firm grip on the fullback position, but the rest of the backfield is in flux with Kale Pearson continuing to take reps with the first team at quarterback over Jaleel Awini and Jon Lee and Anthony Lacoste sharing time at tailback.
"We don't have a whole lot of return guys, and if it was a puzzle there really wouldn't be a lot of pieces that we have in place," coach Troy Calhoun said.
"Fortunately, it's not a puzzle. We get a chance to work with people, and people have a chance to develop and grow and evolve and morph. Individually, that's possible; and collectively, also. That's the fun part of it. That's why we coach."
There was no time wasted in relearning the routine, as players quickly hopped from station to station on the outdoor practice fields.
Defensive coordinator Charlton Warren credited the tempo with players making the effort over the summer to learn the playbook and their responsibilities, even on special teams.
The players deflected the credit right back at the coaching staff.
"Coaches do a great job of running us through each station," said Joey Nichol, who is poised to take over one of the inside linebacker positions. "They're very organized. We're excited. Everybody's got goose bumps, everybody's ready to go. We're excited about day-to-day stuff. We've just got to get the kinks out."