Fans lined the grass around University Park Field Saturday morning. Tailgating was in full swing prior to kickoff. Even the cheerleaders were present. It felt like a regular season game in a lot of ways.
But this was just the spring game for the University of West Florida, the first such event in the history of the program, which kicks off its inaugural season five months from now.
Once a dream, football is now a reality on campus for the Argonauts and the popularity of it is unmistakable.
“What a great vision (school president) Dr. Judy Benz had six years ago to hold up a helmet and say we are bringing football to UWF,” said Argonauts head coach Pete Shinnick. “It was a great scene here today. We had a lot of fans out here watching us play football on this beautiful field.”
UWF played a 90-minute game with the offense squaring off against the defense, proving an opportunity for many of the players on the roster to get reps, including former Navarre standout Quentin Randolph, a receiver who got in a on a few plays before going out with an injury to his foot.
The Argos produced 420 yards of offense in the game. The defense forced four 3-and-outs.
“We made a lot of great plays on both sides of the ball,” Shinnick said. “We got a lot of great work in and we were able to accomplish a lot. “We are very excited and very pleased with what happened today.”
Shinnick was hired two years ago to build the UWF program from the ground up, in part because of his experience of doing the same thing at UNC-Pembroke a decade ago.
He has made several coaching stops along the way and is pleased with how the process of building this team has played out.
“I sent my wife a text this morning of a picture of us in our first year at Clemson,” said Shinnick, who was an assistant with the Tigers early in his career. “What a fun ride we’ve had together. We’ve moved all over the country and to get to start this program up is exciting.”
Read more in the April 21 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.