CHARLOTTE -- After serving on Pete Shinnick's staff at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke from 2006 to 2014, current UNCP coach Shane Richardson reunited with his mentor and celebrated his accomplishments from this season.
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Shinnick guided West Florida to the NCAA Division II national championship game in its second season. That feat was a first for any second-year program, and Shinnick earned a first of his own on Tuesday -- a national coach of the year award. Shinnick was named the Division II National Coach of the Year, as announced by the American Football Coaches Association during its annual convention at the Charlotte Convention Center.
"I grew up in a family where my dad coached football in the NFL, and also played for 16 years," Shinnick said. "Without my dad's example of what a great husband and father looks like, I wouldn't be the man I am today. So I want to thank my dad, who passed away a few years ago, but his impact and his influence on me goes beyond what I do on a daily basis."
Richardson, a member and voter in the association's coaches poll, was in attendance and felt the award was due for the man he worked under for nearly eight years.
"Coach Shinnick is very deserving of this and I can't speak highly enough of what he does," Richardson said. "I'm proud of what he was able to accomplish to take a second-year program to the championship, that's unprecedented."
Shinnick led the Argonauts to an 11-4 record and helped the squad advance to the NCAA Division II national championship game in their second season of competition. UWF went 5-3 in the ultra-competitive Gulf South Conference to finish tied for second. The Argonauts won a school record six-consecutive games which included five against nationally ranked teams en route to the title game appearance.
"They went in with three losses and had the potential to not even get in," Richardson said of the Argos' journey. "The run they made had never been done and it's quite impressive."
UWF was ranked second in the final AFCA Top 25, marking its first-ever ranking after receiving votes twice during the 2017 season.
The Argos had the nation's 20th-ranked defense and were among the top 20 in sacks, turnovers gained, interceptions, fumbles recovered, fourth down defense and defensive touchdowns.
UWF had a number of exciting events transpire in 2017. Among the highlights in the regular-season were: A goal line turnover in the final seconds to secure a win at Missouri S&T in the season opener; The team tied a school-record with 51 points in a win over Chowan; Austin Williams kicked a field goal as time expired in a wild road win over Florida Tech to claim the Coastal Classic for the second-consecutive year; Marvin Conley had a 98-yard pick-6 in the last minute to preserve a 28-14 win over Mississippi College; the Argos defeated 4-time defending GSC champ North Alabama 30-7 on Senior Day; UWF erased a 16-0 deficit to defeat West Georgia, 34-29, and earn a berth into the postseason, becoming the fastest startup to reach the playoffs in Division II.
"We're going to continue to get better," Shinnick said. "We didn't win it all so there's a goal out there to go and try to achieve."
The postseason run proved to be just as exciting, captivating the nation as the team knocked off one top-25 opponent after another, beginning with a dominating 31-0 win at No. 16 Wingate. A 17-14 win at No. 25 West Georgia followed before winning the Super Regional 2 championship at No. 17 West Alabama. The national semifinals saw another dominating defensive performance as the Argonauts outlasted top-ranked and undefeated Indiana (Pa.), 27-17 to advance to the title game.
This article is written by Jonathan Bym from The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.