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Lester Smith, a quarterback from Foley, Ala., recalls one game at Southwest during which the fans were "giving him fits." When the game was over and the fans were threatening his players, Bull Cyclone told them, "O.K. now, if I say 'sic 'em,' I mean sic 'em!" But he became the point man and went and stood in the stadium gate and glared at the fans until one by one they all melted away, and Bull Cyclone's team filed out, unmolested.
To spice up practices Bull Cyclone would sometimes have the managers wrap old mattresses around pine trees to make blocking targets. The idea was to see if anybody could slam into a tree hard enough to knock off a pinecone. Try it. Or, if he thought things were slack during a scrimmage, he would scream, "Get after it!" and the linemen were automatically obliged to choose up and start fighting one another.
From his Parris Island days, Bull Cyclone borrowed the idea of an obstacle course, adding a wrinkle of his own—a trip wire in the tall grass that the managers yanked as the weary players came through. From another part of the course, Bull Cyclone would hurl bricks at the players as they tried to regain their balance after clambering over a wall. He would miss, but barely. He did, however, get their attention.
Probably his most famous gambit was to hold scrimmages at the edge of the pond, which is located at the bottom of a gentle slope, down from where Mr. Smith's pasture used to be. Bull Cyclone came up with the scheme in order to test goal-line defenses. He took his defensive unit and lined it up in the shallow water, which came up to about the players' knees. Then Bull Cyclone had the offense storm down the hill. It "scored" if the running back could make it into the water.
Gerald Poole, who's still on the faculty at Scooba, was Bull Cyclone's defensive assistant the day he dreamed up the pond scrimmage. "You think your—defense is tough?" Bull Cyclone roared, and then had coach Poole station his players in the water. The first two goal-line plays, off-tackle, failed to get a splashdown. On the third and last shot, Poole told his middle linebacker that he thought the ballcarrier would come right over the middle on the next assault. "If he does, I'm gonna shoot him like an old dove," the linebacker said. Sure enough, the runner took the hand-off and tried to leap into the pond over center. The linebacker popped up, met him at the height of his dive, and the two players crashed into the muck, headfirst. It wasn't uncommon for the defenders to lose their cleats in the Mississippi mud.
The reference to dove shooting wasn't unusual, either. Most Scooba players were country boys who had, like the coach, grown up with guns. Because Bull Cyclone was almost paranoid about opponents spying, he outfitted his managers with rifles. On at least two occasions it's documented that Bull Cyclone grabbed a rifle from a manager and fired at a private airplane that had strayed into his practice airspace. Another time he bade the manager to open fire on a plane, but the boy panicked, threw down the gun and, so the story goes, ran off the field, never to show his face again in Scooba. On another occasion, a succession of shots heard from where a manager was stationed—with a shotgun and orders to shoot to kill any suspected spies.
"Oh my Lord!" Bull Cyclone screamed. "Who did he shoot?"
Mercifully, no one. The manager was just another old country boy, and when he saw a covey of quail nearby, he blasted away.
Scooba boys were the last in the country to eschew leather helmets, because Bull Cyclone believed that the hard modern helmets caused more injuries than they prevented. He thought his players would be better off with the nice, soft leather helmets—especially if they were decked out with skull and crossbones. No sooner had he thought of the skull-and-crossbones idea than he dispatched a manager with a bunch of helmets for Mrs. Sullivan to start painting. "Bob thought the skull and crossbones would kind of rattle the other team," she says. "He told the players, 'Now, you don't have to make faces. But don't smile.' "
Traditionally, when the Scooba players came out before a game, they didn't make a sound. Most teams scream and shout and carry on to prove they're ready to play, but Bull Cyclone thought that was a waste of good energy. His charges came out as silent as the fog. Imagine being a player on the other team, and here comes the bunch you're going to play, togged out in star jerseys—and now in skull-and-bones helmets—quiet as mice, and then on the sideline they start going one-on-one. That was likely to get your attention.