When Pete Shinnick was hired in 2014 to start up the University of West Florida football program, he didn’t have much.
No wins to write home about. No tradition or history to lean on to sell to potential recruits.
“Four years ago, we had a phone and a desk. We’ve come a long way,” Shinnick said.
It’s been quite a journey for the Argonauts, who are in only their second season of playing football and have much more now, including a winning season for the first time in program history.
They did it in statement-making fashion in front of a pumped-up crowd of 5,590 on a mild Saturday afternoon at Blue Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola, crushing 2016 national runner-up North Alabama 30-7 in Gulf South Conference action to snag their sixth win.
No one ever knows how the early years of a start-up program are going to go. Success is hoped for but there are no guarantees. But there was always belief.
“This is what we desired when we came here,” Shinnick said. “We really felt like UWF was a first-class university that could attract great young men and that we could play a great brand of football. We’re really excited about what we’ve been able to do.”
The Argos (6-3, 4-3 GSC) played their greatest game ever, at least when you consider the soon-to-be Division I Lions’ reputation as a national power. They didn’t allow an offensive touchdown and limited UNA (4-5, 4-3) to 129 yards.
Mike Beaudry shredded one of the nation’s best pass defenses to the tune of 194 yards and three touchdowns. He completed 18 of his 30 passes, with his scoring strike to Carlos Duclos putting UWF in front 13-7 with 2:08 to play in the opening half.
Rodney Coates and Kevin Grant pulled in touchdown receptions in the second half against an opponent that had allowed only four touchdown passes all season. Austin Williams made three field goals, including two in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead.
UWF lost 51-3 to UNA last year during its inaugural season. What a difference a year makes.
“To see how far we’ve come individually and as a team. It’s unreal,” Beaudry said. “You can’t think of a feeling of what it’s like to clinch a winning season. It’s unreal. I love it.”
The Argos have one game left. It’s against West Georgia, the second-best team in the conference. It’s on the road.
And as crazy as it sounds, they have an outside shot at the NCAA Division II playoffs. It’s only a shot and that’s all that matters.
“To be in the hunt, we need this win. We know what is at stake,” wide receiver Antoine Griffin said. “This last week, we have to lock in and hopefully when we watch the playoff show, our name pops up and we can go to work.”
Read more about the Argos in the Nov. 9 edition of the Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.