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Sports At Florida Gateway College: “Building Better People” & “A Good Deal For Everyone”

Florida Gateway College Women's Flag Football
Photo via FGC

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last Thursday, the Florida Gateway College Women's Flag Football team – the Timberwolves – came face to face with the governor’s FGC College Board of Trustees. In just its second year of competition, FGC’s Timberwolves Flag Football team became the first-ever National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) champions.

Woman’s Flag Football Is a Big Deal

Chris Hacket, FGC's athletic director, told your reporter, "Flag football for girls is the fastest-growing sport in the country. Florida had 7,000 girls play high school flag football last year. Right now, we are the only junior college in Florida that offers it.”

Mr. Hacket added that Pasco-Hernando State and Daytona State are adding it next year, and two or three others are looking into it, “But we were the first.”

Mr. Hacket had high praise for flag football coach Rick Hufty, who came to FGC in January 2022 and brought the team from a thought to NJCAA champions in less than two years.

Coach Hufty is one of the world’s experts in flag football. In 2018, the Coach was awarded the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) Meritorious Service Award and 2017 All Big Bend Flag Football Coach of the Year.

At last Thursday's meeting, President Barrett explained Coach Hufty's journey to FGC: "Coach Hefty said he wanted to build a flag football team here at FGC, and we took a leap of faith. He took a leap of faith in us. He had been so experienced at the high school level [He] wanted to bring Collegiate Flag Football to the State of Florida and the NJCAA, and we were very proud to have him on Board….look at what we have -- twenty wonderful student-athletes, many of them were on our championship team.”

Florida Gateway College championship Flag Football team
The full size photo of the 2023 team is available for viewing and downloading here. The roster is here. A photo of the team with the governor's board is here.

After the team members introduced themselves, Coach Hufty addressed the Board (abridged): Thank you, guys. We’ve got kids from all over North Florida, even as far away as Miami. You have afforded us at Florida Gateway the opportunity to give all of these kids and the ones that will come after them the opportunity to compete in the sport that they love at what is right now the highest level that there is. Putting together a program that makes Florida Gateway and this community proud is something we don't take for granted.

Coach Hufty explained the educational component of the program. He said, "It's the most important part of this program. We stress and preach that every day... We seek a 100 percent graduation rate for all of our players. It's the number one thing that we preach. And then through building better people, special things like that happen.”

After the team members introduced themselves, Dr. Barrett asked the team to do the chant. FGC athletes are known as the Timberwolves. When other teams heard the Women’s Flag Footballers do their chant, they must have known they were in for trouble.

The Timberwolves do this chant before each game: (three times -- What we’re here to do? Hunt. Wolves, let’s hunt! Hooowllll).

Hear the Timberwolves' chant.

“Having a 100 percent graduation rate and preparing them to be successful when they leave this school, whether it's continuing on at a four-year; whether it's being in a four-year program here as we continue to open up more options, or if it's jumping into a career that they're ready to jump into – all of this comes back to you guys.”

Athletic Director Hacket said that FGC has higher standards than the NJCAA. Director Hacket said President Barrett sets the standard, "and he sets it high."

The educational component for all the student-athletes at FGC, no matter the sport, is a priority at the college.

Earlier this year, during the opening of the FGC satellite facility in Gilchrist County, Dr. Barrett told your reporter, "If it weren't for sports, a lot of these students would not be attending the college."

Dr. Barrett continued, “Along with the financial aid that student-athletes receive, sports at FGC gives these students a leg up into their futures, and as Coach Hufty told the Board, ‘It builds better people.’”

Dr. Barrett said, “That’s a good deal for everyone.”

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