No Other Feeling Than Winning a Natty


Abigail Denney, Staff Writer

If you could describe the southern culture in three terms it would be, sweet tea, college football, and country music. If you combine all of those things together it’s called a tailgate. 

Your favorite football team is probably who your family rooted for when you were a kid. Over the years, you develop a deep sense of love and pride towards your team. If you’re lucky enough, your favorite team might win a national championship. 

In just their fourth season, UWF’s football team won the NCAA D-II National Championship in 2019. It’s a remarkable and unprecedented thing to happen to this community. The excitement, love, and pride that came over Pensacola after winning the National Championship was something inexpressible and beautiful to be a part of. 

UWF’s defensive back, D’Anthony Bell said “Coming home with a national title is like no other feeling. Mainly because growing up those are times that you dream of and those are times you practice by yourself. So it felt amazing. It’s great to say that you’re a National Champion.”

It’s unheard of to win a national title with a team that young and new to the field. I reached out to a recent UWF football Alum, Gage Krull who was there from the start of the program all the way to winning the National Championship. Krull said, “Any one of my 9 teammates that were there from the beginning to the national championship will agree, the days practicing on mud fields and sharing a volleyball locker room with 120 men sucked.”     

When asked about the feeling of being there from the start to winning a National Championship and having that kind of full-circle moment, Krull said, “We stayed the course and trusted our coaches, and the wins started to follow. One thing led to another and years later we stood at the 50-yard line hoisting a trophy into the air. It’s the stuff people make movies about, it hasn’t ever happened before and I doubt it will happen again. It’s once in a lifetime, and it’s a moment none of us will ever forget. It was surreal.” 

That day of the National Championship every restaurant and bar was packed with people supporting our football team. It’s an event that you will never forget where you were, who you were with, and how you felt. 

The support from UWF’s community definitely went to another level during the 2019 season. “It felt amazing, beyond amazing. I felt like we made people proud to be from Pensacola. Just hearing people tell me stories about the packed bars they watched the games at or getting waved at when you have a football shirt on downtown, makes all the early mornings and all the time commitment worth it,” Krull said. 

In 2017, head coach Pete Shinnick led UWF to the championship game and by their fourth season, he led them all the way to the title. The odds were stacked against them in 2019 but they came out on the other side as national champions. Bell said “Being an underdog is always good because you feel you have to prove that you can compete. Showing that we could overcome adversity and win was very rewarding.”

The boys brought home the trophy on December 22nd, just in time for Christmas. “Working for 14 years at my craft, to have my final game of competitive football be a National Championship is more than most people can dream of. But to win that last game and become champions with a team that started from literally nothing, is a feeling I have trouble finding words to describe,” Krull said.

Shortly after things were starting to shut down in Pensacola due to the pandemic. UWF announced that all classes were going to be online for the rest of the spring semester. Everyone moved off of campus and all organizations, teams, and events were canceled until further notice. Unfortunately, we did not get to see our Argos play in the 2020 season. On the bright side, you could say that we will hold the title for two years instead of one. 

Since there was no season this past year, the football team has put their time and effort elsewhere. “A very good benefit is talking to the youth after winning a National Championship because that’s some of their dreams and we’re living it, so they relate a lot to us,” Bell explained further about seeing some of the benefits that came along with the title.  

“We still see a lot of positive effects. One of the most recent ones was when we did a zoom call with juvenile delinquency kids. To know that we can reach someone when they’re going through something tough and they listen is amazing,” Bell added. 

On the other hand, Krull saw the benefits like we did but had an insightful perspective on it. “I think the football program becoming so successful so fast was amazing for the unity of the City of Pensacola. People need something to cheer for, and for the longest time in Pensacola that meant only cheering for the Blue Wahoos. With the National Championship runs in 2017 and 2019 we gave the city a team, we gave UWF a team, a team that people loved to come together to cheer for,” Krull revealed. 

Another benefit that comes along with a National Championship title is the money. It brings money to the university, the football program, and the community surrounding the area. The impressive win over Minnesota State put UWF on the map and has brought more people to the Panhandle. “I don’t know specifics, but I know that the 2019 Natty run and win brought millions of dollars into Pensacola’s economy. You’re welcome small businesses,” Krull boasted.

If you strip all of the money and prestige away from winning a National Championship, there still would be unspoken support and pride that comes from the UWF community. Holding the title has drastically changed UWF in many beneficial ways but that’s just a fraction of what this university is about. 

Just know that UWF hasn’t seen their last National Championship game.