Columbia County Report: Florida Gateway sports thriving since return of athletic department

The school’s brand-new flag football program has yet to allow a point and its men’s basketball team plays for a district title this weekend
The school’s brand-new flag football program has yet to allow a point and its men’s basketball team plays for a district title this weekend
Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 5:39 PM EST
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LAKE CITY, Fla. (WCJB) - Florida Gateway College’s athletic department returned in 2017, nearly a decade after being shut down.

The Timberwolves have roared to life in multiple sports including, most recently, flag football.

FGC is 2-0 on the young season and have not allowed a point in each of their first two wins.

“I think we had a feeling that we could do some good things,” said head coach, Ricky Hufty. “I mean obviously, there’s always potential in places and there’s plenty of times where potential doesn’t come to fruition and live up to expectation, but our kids have hit the ground running from the very beginning. They’ve really...attacked every day as a new day to get better.”

One of the team’s players has mixed feelings about the team’s quick start.

“Very surprised,” said Chinera Shaheed, “but at the same time not really because we have a team full of athletes. We know how to move the ball, throw the ball, we can put anybody in any position and depend on them.”

Shaheed said it is a special feeling to be a part of a new program and set the foundation for future success.

“The fact of us knowing that we’re going to start a whole generation,” said Shaheed, “and we’re going to start...a legacy, that’s the only thing that’s running through my mind. That’s why when we come practice we work hard because our name is going to be on this forever.”

Flag football is not the only team seeing success at FGC since the athletic department restarted.

The men’s basketball team is in their district’s championship game for the second straight season.

“The last month’s been kind of crazy on campus with men’s basketball keep winning their games,” said athletic director, Chris Hackett, “they’ve got a chance to go to the national tournament in Danville... It’s been good it’s almost happened a little bit quicker than what we thought.”

The next sports to begin play at FGC will be men’s cross country in fall and softball this spring.

In December, TV20 reported on the softball team’s first recruiting class and at the time, construction on the new facility was in its early stages.

Since then, significant progress has been made and Hackett says the department will only continue to grow.

“The potential is still there to grow,” said Hackett. “We’ve got good coaches in place, the facilities are improving by the week almost. So I think if you’re a player in this area of North Florida, this will be a college that you really want to take a look at.”

Hufty spoke to a unified vision at all levels of the athletic department that has allowed them to get off to such a great start.

“The key to any athletic program and any success is that you’ve got to have alignment and you’ve got to have vision,” said Hufty. “As a coach we have a vision for what we want our program to be, but our administration...they all align in what we’re trying to do.”

FGC’s flag football season continues this weekend as they fly to Kansas for four games.

“Our college here is so supportive of everything and they’ve been so great at my matching my vision for what I want this program to be,” said Hufty. “Our players have bought in and it’s just such an exciting time and I love where we’re going.”

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