Before the flash of thousands of cameras at kickoff. Before Taylor Swift swoops in to swipe a good portion of the game's TV attention for herself. Before fellow Scenic City native Usher's halftime spectacle, and long before fireworks and confetti fill the air inside Allegiant Stadium.
Before all of the hoopla and brouhaha surrounding Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday in Las Vegas, Daniel Bullocks will attempt the impossible. The former Hixson High School star, now in his seventh season as a defensive backs coach for the San Francisco 49ers, will find a spot at the end of his team's bench to claim three minutes of seclusion and stillness for himself.
"I'm pretty superstitious about keeping everything the same before every game, even this week," Bullocks said Friday evening between team meetings. "My routine before every game is to sit quietly by myself and take three minutes to just sort of focus my thoughts. I pray to thank God for the opportunity that I have and for the safety of both teams, and then I just sort of look around and take it all in.
"For this game, there's a lot more to take in."
The 40-year old Bullocks, who said he still tries to make it back home at least once a year, is making his second Super Bowl appearance as an assistant coach. The 49ers came up short against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020, but now they're favored to claim redemption against that same opponent.
Despite overseeing one of the league's top secondary units, Bullocks and the entire defense face a difficult job trying to slow down a Kansas City offense — led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes — that ranks among the NFL's top 10 in multiple categories.
"It's incredibly hard to prepare for the Chiefs," Bullocks admitted. "It's just so hard to simulate what they do at practice and then adjust to it once you're in a live game situation. Mahomes can extend plays so easily with his legs and is always looking to make a big play downfield. He's just a very smart player who's tough to defend.
"That's a big part of what I enjoy as a coach, though, just trying to find ways to put our guys in position to make a big play. I want to be the best at what I do, be the best secondary coach in the league. Then if another team sees me as a good choice to be a defensive coordinator, that would be the next step for my career."
Daniel and twin brother Josh introduced themselves on the local scene in 1998 as key players for a Hixson team that pulled off one of the most dramatic upsets in area prep football history. Josh caused a fumble, then scooped the ball up and returned it 42 yards as time expired for the winning touchdown against perennial state power Cleveland, which had not lost a region game in five seasons.
The Bullocks brothers went on to lead Hixson to the school's first playoff appearance, and Daniel — who is older by one minute — would later become the Wildcats' first, and only, state Mr. Football award winner.
The twins then became All-Big 12 Conference players at Nebraska, and later both were second-round NFL draftees — Josh in 2005 by the New Orleans Saints and Daniel in 2006 by the Detroit Lions. After their playing careers ended, Josh returned to Nebraska, where he still lives, while Daniel pursued a coaching career.
After short stints at Northern Iowa and Eastern Michigan, he made the jump to the NFL as a defensive backs coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars for one season before joining the 49ers. This is his first season he has worked on the sideline during games after six years of coaching from the press box, and he admitted he's looking forward to the Super Bowl's on-field atmosphere.
"This week has felt a lot different than the first one," Bullocks said. "I know what to expect, and it's more about just preparing for the game instead of getting caught up in all the distractions of the week. I'm also able to advise some of our guys who weren't on the team for that last Super Bowl, and I just try to get through to them how important it is to focus on our job this week instead of all the extra stuff.
"Luckily, Taylor Swift has nothing to do with our team, so maybe the Chiefs will be more distracted. It's a lot easier said than done, but you really do have to find a way to keep your attention on the main thing, which is the game.
"I'm just a guy who was born and raised in Chattanooga, and I still love my hometown because it helped make me who I am. That's part of what I think about whenever I take that time before a game to myself. I just think about where I came from and how thankful I am to be where I am."
Contact Stephen Hargis at email@example.com.