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UWF welcomes familiar face as new head football coach

Kaleb Nobles
Kaleb Nobles

When the University of West Florida kicks off its 2023 football season, there will be a new leader — the team’s first quarterback has become its second head coach.

“Today, I want to introduce to you our new football coach, to bring a new era, number 6 Kaleb Nobles,” said Athletics Director Dave Scott in his introduction.

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“We brought a winner here today. He was 35-17 here at UWF. He was 21-5 at Clemson, and he was 35-12 at Valdosta State as a student-athlete,” added Scott. “So, we want to say that we have faith in what we produce here at the University of West Florida.”

“Not a lot of presidents get the bragging rights that I have on our athletic program," said UWF President Martha Saunders. "When you add about 114 [Gulf South] conference championships and 10 national championships, you get the swagger. And I’m very grateful for that."

“I’m grateful for our coaches. They not only do a great job with our students, which is what we pay them to do, but they live in this community and they volunteer in this community, and they’re a part of this community,” she said. “And they make incredible contributions and I’m happy about that, too.”

After finishing his playing career at UWF, Nobles joined the coaching staff at Clemson in offensive player development from where he’s returning. And he had a message to the returning Argo players.

“My philosophy as your head coach is I'm going to lead you with love, character and integrity while equipping you to be a champion for life,” said Nobles. “We're going to be a tough but respectful football team, and we're going to chase excellence by having great effort both on and off the field. We're going to be intense, and we're going to have an aggressiveness of us.”

Nobles also harkened back to when he transferred to UWF, in the very early days and the subsequent growth of the program.

“I came here on a visit in December of 2015. There was no turf. There was no stadium, there was no bleachers. It was trees,” he said. “And so for us to see the growth that we're in now, we had our first opportunity to walk the stadium a little while ago as the new head coach, and I was mind going at what it looks like.”

The news of Shinnick's resignation broke over the weekend as he announced he The Towson job is a homecoming of sorts for Shinnick. He was born in nearby Baltimore, and his father, Don Shinnick, was a star linebacker for the Colts. Towson’s stadium is named after one of Don’s teammate Johnny Unitas.

Meeting with his new team, Shinnick told them basically what he told his first Argonaut team — that everything they do will have a purpose, in getting to three goals.

“Number one, help you become the best person you can be. The way we say it is help you become a better husband, father, employer, employee,” said Shinnick. “Number two [we] want to see you graduate, and then number three, we want to play great football. And my desire is to get a group of guys that want to be here, excited about the future, excited about what this program can do, and go out and play great football.”

"I'm going to miss Pete," said UWF President-emeritus Judy Bense, who was instrumental in bringing Shinnick to Pensacola. "I understand the professional movement as well as the emotional movement. Pete and his wife and family and staff. I'll just miss him, but I also really appreciate what he's done for us.”

Bense adds that when they were reviewing applicants for the job, a couple of things jumped out from his resume — including his start-from-scratch of another football program at North Carolina-Pembroke.

“It wasn't his first rodeo,” she said. “That appealed to us from the beginning and that he would instill in his players a sense of maturity, responsibility, turning them into responsible citizens, brothers, and fathers. That was very clear, that that was very important to him.”

As far as the timing of Shinnick’s departure, Bense, like Scott, says it was not unexpected.

“Anytime your coach wins, anytime they're on the top of the heap in the semifinals and certainly winning the national championship and being in the mix,” said Bense. “I mean, that attracts attention from schools who need a new coach.”

Two major influences on new UWF head coach Kaleb Nobles’ coaching philosophy have been Shinnick and his boss at Clemson, Dabo Swinney.

“There's a lot of lessons that I've learned from them and be able to sit in the back of rooms and just take notes on things that they do well and things that I feel I can transfer over here,” said the new coach. “The culture will not be compromised for any player. We're going to make sure that we recruit high character kids. We're going to recruit the local talent and show people that the culture is not leaving just a new face.”

As for the X’s and O’s, Nobles said no major changes are expected offensively from his predecessor.

“We're going to be exciting," Nobles added. "We're going to throw the ball down field. We're going to make sure that people understand that we're going to be in attack mode at all times as an offense,” Nobles said. “As a defense, we're going to be the same way. We're going to make sure that people know that when they're playing West Florida, they feel us. We're going to be intense, we're going to be aggressive, and we're going to make sure that everybody remembers what it feels like to play West Florida.”