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CORAL GABLES — Nathaniel Joseph gets up before the sun.
The Miami Hurricanes freshman wide receiver, who goes by Ray Ray, sets his alarm for 5 a.m. so he can get down to Miami’s practice facility and work on catching footballs.
“And I don’t snooze it,” Joseph said. “I jump right up.”
After the early alarm, Joseph heads down to the Hurricanes’ facility, where he catches 50 or more passes from the automated JUGS machine.
“They say ‘be here at eight,’ I’m here at six,” Joseph said. “I’m here already in the morning, out here catching. The days we’ve got to be here by 7:30, I’m here at five. So I’m just in here getting that work in. Hard work pays off and I’ve been like that from high school. I never was the biggest guy, so just putting in the hard work is really what got me here and what’s going to get me to the next level.”
Joseph is one of several Miami freshmen making a strong early impression on teammates and coaches as the Hurricanes come to the end of spring practices, and his work ethic has not gone unnoticed.
“Ray Ray’s on the JUGS machine practically every morning before practice,” wide receivers coach Kevin Beard said. “And it’s like, ‘Why is he on the JUGS machine?’ Because he knows that he has to develop to be a natural ball-catcher to play receiver.”
Joseph, a Miami native who went to Miami Edison High and played for prominent UM fan Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, credited his high school coach for helping get him ready for college practice.
“I came from Miami Edison, and we put in a lot of hard work,” Joseph said. “So when I came here, it kind of got easier because the way coach Luke has practice — man, he has us out there dying. When I got here, and it’s way more controlled and way more organized, it made it way … smoother. But I think having a tough high school coach, it made it way more simple when I got here.”
Joseph, who has been working back from an injury that limited him early in the spring, has been working as a slot wide receiver as well as on kick and punt returns. At Miami Edison last season, he had 47 catches for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns.
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“Just taking advantage of any opportunity I get to get on the field and make plays and make a change, that’s what I’m here to do,” Joseph said. “So whatever they need me to do I’m here to do. I don’t complain. I’m just here to work.”
In high school, he built a reputation for his blazing speed, and that has followed him to UM. Joseph said despite the injury that kept him limited, he clocked over 20 miles per hour on a GPS speed timer.
“Those boys are really fast,” wide receiver Colbie Young, speaking about Joseph and fellow freshman wide receiver Robby Washington. “They’re going to take the top off of defenses, open up that space for other receivers to come underneath. Really excited to get them out there and get out there.”
Joseph said he believes he is the fastest player on the team, but he is working to get quicker.
“I’m trying to get some more speed,” Joseph said. “Just even getting bigger, too, and putting on more weight, gaining weight, because I mean you take a lot of pounding out there. Even though I’m running away from most everybody, but you still take a lot of pounding in certain situations. But maintaining my speed at the same time while putting on more weight is definitely what I’m attacking.”
The spring game will be Joseph’s first opportunity to show what he can do in a Hurricanes uniform. If things go according to plan for Joseph in his first season, more players may be joining him in his early-morning catching drills.
“We have about four or five [guys], but it keeps growing,” Joseph said. “Once they see the performance out on the field, once I’m constantly catching the ball and they’re dropping the ball they’ll be like, ‘Man, we need to come out and get on the JUGS in the morning early.’ Just doing the little things to help the team. It’s a culture. That’s a part of building culture and that’s where it starts. Somebody has got to start it.”