Leading Stories

Jason Dustin
Staff Writer

The University of West Florida’s football team entered into a new phase of development with the signing of its first two players, both of whom are products of the Florida region’s high school football programs.

Tyler Henderson of Crestview High School, and Blake McCall of Northview High School in Century, Florida, have enrolled for spring classes and were in place as the program hosted its first group of potential recruits this past weekend.

“That’s what makes it great,” head coach Pete Shinnick said in a phone interview. “They [Henderson and McCall] both wanted to come and help build this program in their local area.”

McCall transferred to UWF from Division I Jackson State University. In response to questions of whether or not he prefers run or pass-blocking, his preference for the sport’s physicality surfaced.

“Run-blocking,” McCall said by phone. “That’s kind of my nature … You get to dominate your opponent.”

The strong response matched the physical appearance of McCall, considering the offensive lineman is 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 300 pounds and bench presses 380 pounds.

Henderson, a 5-foot-11-inch, 195-pound man who transferred from Division I Florida Atlantic University, responded in a very similar way when he discussed his style of play.

2013-14 FAU Athletics Head Shots
Tyller Henderson went to high school in Crestview Florida and is transferring from Florida Atlantic University where he readshirted as a defensive back.
Photo courtesy of UWF Athletics

“I’m more of a man-to-man guy, because I like to be physical,” Henderson said. “It’s all about how you start off, off of the line. If you just jam a receiver and get him off his path, you’ve kind of won the battle already.”

More parallels crop up when the two speak about their coach, and why they chose to attend and play football at UWF.

“When I first saw him [Shinnick] I could already tell he was a good coach,” Henderson said. “The way he talked football, and the things he was looking for in players.

“He’s more worried about character at this point … He knows that with character will come performance, and that’s a good way for a coach to be.”

“I can’t wait to play for him,” McCall said. “He’s already got me ready to go to war with him. I can tell he’s going to be a great coach—with his beliefs and everything.”

Henderson said the response he has received from his hometown has been very enthusiastic.

“Everybody’s excited,” Henderson said. “I remember the day I signed—probably 10 o’clock in the morning—I went to a Crestview game that night and everybody had already heard about it. People were congratulating me, the newspaper wanted to do an interview … There’s nothing like that atmosphere.

Blake McCall_HS
Blake McCall is from Century Florida and is transferring from Jackson State University where he saw playing time as an offensive lineman.
Photo courtesy of UWF Athletics

“Everybody was coming up to me and telling me that they’re going to be at the first game,” McCall said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Both have visions of that first game, which will be played in 2016.

“I picture being right there on the field,” Henderson said. “Big crowd, everyone there is excited … You know you have to put up a performance for the first game.

“I imagine the defense is shutting somebody out. The first game of the university’s history … that would be something big to do—to walk out of there with a win.”

McCall’s mind drifts to the 5,100-seat Maritime Park Stadium locker room, as he prepares himself for the game.

The opportunity to create history and to help set the tone for a fledgling program is something McCall looks forward to as well. He regards the region’s talent pool as rich and as an indicator of a good things to come for UWF football.

“People kind of sleep on Panhandle football,” McCall said. “It’s top-notch. We get to start our own tradition. Instead of living up to one, we get to start our own.”

Signing Day, which is Feb. 4, is the next occasion in which UWF football may sign additional student-athletes.

The team will hold tryouts for interested, full-time UWF students on Jan. 19. For more information and eligibility requirements visit www.goargos.com.