Written by Tiarra Bell, Staff Writer
Winning a national championship is hard, but winning back-to-back national championships is historic; yet, the Nikes pulled it off with a cool demeanor.
The Valdosta State University Nikes won the 2015-2016 National Intramural Recreational Sports Association Men’s National Flag Football Championship for the second year in a row.
The Nikes and P-Rex traveled to Pensacola, Florida, for competition at the University of West Florida. There, each teamed competed in a total of five games from Jan 2-4.
P-Rex is Valdosta State’s co-rec flag football team that won the 2014-2015 NIRSA co-rec National Championship. The group fell short this year, losing to Angelo State University 23-9 in the national championship game.
However, the Nikes defeated five teams, one of which broke a national record by trouncing Saginaw Valley State 103-0.
In the men’s national championship, the Nikes continued to dominate the field, this time beating the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley’s Hoosier Daddy 26-12.
Among 22 athletes, five Valdosta State players earned All-American honors. Co-Rec All-American honors included Lance Jarriel, Rachel Swilley, and Eric Johnson. Men’s All-Americans include team captains D’Angelo Smith, who was also named MVP, and Romaz Jones.
Jones told his teammates there is one goal this year.
“It’s a must that we take the national title back home,” Jones said. “I remind them to be ready and stay focus. We’re going to get to the mountain top.”
The Nikes came into the season knowing that they have improved from last year’s contests. The team had lost only one game in pool play and finished the nationals undefeated. Having a lot of poise played a huge role on the road to be reigning champs.
“The mindset we had going to Pensacola was that we knew we were going to win,” senior Tedrian Thompson said. “We felt like we had an advantage. We go into games knowing our defense will step up and hold our opponents one or two touchdowns a game. Offensively, we felt no one can stop us.”
While one teammate was openly confident in winning, freshman Craig Snead Jr. asked a certain question before going into the championship: “Do we have what it takes to be a champion?”
“Yes, we do,” Snead said. “Never let fear strike your path. When you have a team that goes to bed with determination and wake up with satisfaction, we all become winners. We achieved that mindset by giving it 110 percent every play, second by second. Talent win games but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”