There’s a time and place for comfort in this life.
In the realm of big-time college football, though, those moments can be fleeting -- which is just fine with Dicaprio Bootle.
The Nebraska sophomore cornerback says he's the type to push himself hard and eschew comfort, a trait that fits well with the ethos of new Husker secondary coach Travis Fisher.
“Around coach Fisher, I’m always a little bit, I guess you could say, on edge,” the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Miami native said last week.
“It’s good for our room for him to push our buttons,” Bootle said of Fisher’s propensity for straight talk. “When you’re uncomfortable, you really learn to find yourself. You learn to play the game in ways you might not have known you could play it.”
A leading contender to lock down a starting job in Fisher’s secondary, Bootle spoke to a reporter during a break in Nebraska’s summer conditioning program. He exuded optimism. Everyone in the state seems to exude optimism in the wake of Scott Frost becoming the Huskers’ head coach in December.
But a certain amount of reality inevitably creeps into the conversation. Nebraska’s defense was awful last season. Historically awful. The Blackshirts -- you almost hesitate to use that moniker -- melted down in the final three games, allowing an average of 55.3 points in that stretch.
The pass rush was weak, and coverage often was soft. Other than that …
Bootle pushes forward, one of only three Nebraska corners — juniors Lamar Jackson and Eric Lee are the others — who have significant collegiate experience. But when the Huskers begin preseason camp Aug. 3, keep an eye on Will Jackson, a 6-3, 190-pound transfer from Mesa (Arizona) Community College who’s immediately eligible.
Bring on the competition, Bootle says. After all, competition can cause daily discomfort, albeit in a good way. In a way that often sparks improvement.
“Really, what it comes down to is this: I just want us to go get the ball. Attack the ball. Force fumbles and interceptions,” Bootle said. “Just get the ball back to the offense by any means.”
Music to Erik Chinander’s ears, I’m sure.
“Turnovers is king for me,” the first-year Nebraska defensive coordinator said recently.
Nebraska was 106th nationally in turnover margin in 2017 (minus-0.58). Chinander also emphasizes opponents’ third-down percentage, another area where the Huskers were deficient, as opponents converted 43.1 percent of the time.
Bootle did his best to help, even starting at safety against Ohio State -- his lone start of the season. Yeah, a marvelous idea by former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, whom Nebraska fans will miss like they miss a hammer slamming a finger.
However, Bootle appreciated the experience of playing in games. He finished with 15 tackles.
“I can’t say I was shocked to be pushed into that amount of playing time last season,” he said. “From the day I stepped on campus, I always had the mindset that I wanted to play, I wanted to contribute. I wanted to be a starter.”
He means that as no disrespect to the veterans in last season’s secondary. A lot of those guys -- Joshua Kalu and Chris Jones, for instance -- are like his older brothers, Bootle said. They pushed him, he said, and he wanted to be on the same plane as them.
Bootle rose to the occasion. Because of his experience in the program, true freshmen such as Braxton Clark and Cam Taylor may look to him for guidance. Bootle, an Academic All-Big Ten honoree in 2017, seems like leadership material.
“Being a 'leader,' people look to you in hard times,” he said. “People look to you for instruction. People look to you for direction.”
Being a leader doesn’t always mean raising your voice, he said.
“Everybody can’t be a vocal leader,” he said. “It’s not possible. But everybody can be a leader in their own way.”
It might be as simple as putting your body on the line for the team, or simply accomplishing important goals.
What’s more, “It’s holding yourself accountable,” he said. “It’s really the little things.”
Little things like showing up 15 minutes before a defensive backs meeting instead of racing into the room at the last second.
Little things like pushing through workouts despite nagging injuries.
Nebraska players have been working out with the strength staff on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in advance of preseason camp. Fisher soon will be in Bootle’s ear every day, applying stress when it’s needed.
Bootle respects the fact Fisher played eight seasons in the NFL, with 74 career starts.
“He has the experience to back up his talk,” Bootle said. “I just constantly try to pick his brain and ask the things he’s learned from college to the league -- what worked for him and what didn’t.”
Bottom line, Bootle wants to be prepared for anything. He knows he'll be tested. It's the nature of his position.
“If I’m uncomfortable, I’m pushing myself,” Bootle said. “I know that for a fact. If I feel like I’m pushing myself day after day -- everything might not be perfect -- but I’m going to get better, and when that first game rolls around, I’m going to be ready.”