Pete Shinnick leads Argos to shot at national championship

Pete Shinnick leads Argos to shot at national championship

For six weeks, UWF's football players haven't known if each week's practice would be their last of the season.

Wednesday, they knew. They knew it was their final practice this year on their home turf, the Pen-Air Field.

The Argos leave Thursday morning for Kansas City. Another charter flight, scheduled to depart Pensacola International Airport at 9:00 a.m., or thereabouts. It IS a charter. They will play Texas A&M-Commerce, Saturday afternoon, for the NCAA Division 2 National Championship. Win or lose, the season ends on Saturday.

The Argos' final practice started with an unexpected flight. Another charter. Those who believed Argos' head Coach Pete Shinnick was sent from above, were proved right on Wednesday.

Shinnick arrived at practice by helicopter. He's done this sort of thing during the playoff run to keep things loose, fire up the troops.

It would be somewhere between difficult and impossible to find a more remarkable run by any team in college football history. This is a special team who understands it is guided by an extraordinary coach.

Argos' sophomore receiver Rodney Coates said, "He just tells us what to do, how to do it, and do it at your very best; and if somebody steps out of line, he makes sure he disciplines him. He makes sure they also learn a lesson from what they've done wrong. And he makes sure they correct it. He just stays the same; he's a black and white coach."

Junior receiver Antoine Griffin added, "I've never met a coach the way he is. He's a players' coach. He wants to make you a better person. And going that deep into it, it helps us as players as well. We believe in him, he believes in us. We care about each other, and that's the biggest thing for us. When we believe in one other, great things happen."

Shinnick left a healthy situation at UNC-Pembroke to come to Pensacola in January 2014. He sacrificed two years of coaching in games to build his program.

This week, he remembered the Argos' first spring practice with nine players. That was March of 2015. It took them 33 months to go from that humble beginning to preparing to play for everything there is to play for.

Shinnick smiled as he remembered, "We've come so far. We've accomplished so much in a short amount of time that it's hard to wrap my mind around it at this point in time. I just know our guys continue to believe, continue to trust each other. We're on a great run and we've got one more that we're trying to find a way to come out with a victory."

WEAR Sports will send a crew to Kansas City to cover the Argos' bid for a national championship. Steve Nissim will begin his series of reports from Kansas City Thursday evening. You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevenissim.

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