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UWF Junior David Docormo kicks at Monday’s football tryouts.
Photo by Jason Dustin

Jason Dustin
Staff Writer

Seventy-one hopeful participants flooded the University of West Florida intramural field on Monday and submitted themselves to evaluation for the football program’s first-ever tryouts.

Coaches, prospective players and the public converged on the intramural fields in the spring-like weather conditions.

“Give yourself a hand for being here,” coach Shinnick said. “Obviously this is a big opportunity for all of you, but this is also an opportunity for us.”

Shinnick addressed the group as a whole before he instructed them to separate into smaller groups, according to their positions, for further inspection by his staff.

Packs of observers lined the field’s north-end walkway. High school coaches peppered the field’s periphery as participants responded to the sharp bursts of piercing whistles.

Shinnick spent the majority of the time with the quarterbacks and receivers. Occasionally, his assessing gave way to coaching.

“You’re throwing behind your receiver,” Shinnick said. “Everything’s been behind your receiver when you’re throwing to your right.”

Defensive coordinator Cory Sanders struck a similar chord as he drilled a group of linebackers.

“Attention to detail,” he said. “We’re going to do things right.”

The tryout was not ceremonial.

“There were a couple of guys that we liked,” Shinnick said. “I think a lot of the guys haven’t been working out and were not prepared for a college football tryout. I think they were hoping, ‘Hey if I join, I can get in shape and good things can happen.’

“… We’re looking for people who are ready to go. We’re looking for people who are serious about this, and there were a handful of people who worked hard to put themselves in a position to do that.”

Tyrone C. Jones, an 18-year-old freshman who played at Pensacola’s Pine Forest High School, hopes he was one of the athletes Shinnick took note of. Jones was slotted at quarterback for the tryout. His flick-of-the-wrist passes stood out – they invariably zipped and were on a line.

“I need to take a little bit off of them … They sail on me sometimes,” Jones said.

The tryout was not only an opportunity for athletes like Jones, who his father said excelled in high school, but also for late bloomers such as Hakeem Douglas.

“Since high school I’ve grown … in weight and knowledge,” Douglas said.

The lean and muscular sophomore played just one year of football at Dr. Phillips High School, in Orlando, but walked away from the tryout feeling confident.

“I feel like I matched up pretty well,” he said.

Following the on-field assessment, players under consideration for the team will undergo closer scrutiny prior to any final decision made by Shinnick and his staff.

“We have to do some background checks on guys,” Shinnick said. “We want to see what their GPA’s are, make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing and then talk to their high school coaches.

“If we reach out to them, then we’re going to add them to the team – it will be in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “We want to get started preparing this group for the start of February.”