By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer
Baylor’s paintball club, which was once a young and thriving organization five years ago, but never reached the capability of playing in the National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA) and was previously shut down and listed as inactive, is now one of the most respected paintball clubs in Texas.
Oftentimes a dream will not come to fruition until years after its inception and must rely on someone else to carry the torch, and none is truer than that of Baylor paintball and the current club president, Huntsville junior Colt Cantrell.
For Cantrell, having grown up around it his entire life, paintball was a second language but it wasn’t always something he was capable of sinking his teeth into.
“I grew up around paintball and intensity of paintball,” Cantrell said. “I was scared to play for a while, but once I got old enough and mature enough to get into it, I did.”
When Cantrell stepped onto campus, he had work to do to get this club back on its feet. Fortunately for him, he had help from his brother who helped put him in contact with the people needed to make this dream a reality once more.
As important as it was to put together a team and recruit guys who were passionate about the sport of paintball, the vision of the club was one of selflessness and generosity that would see itself manifested by giving back to the community that brought it back from the dead.
“Our vision was to have a club that was founded in giving back, whether to Waco or to the paintball community or whoever-a big club gives back, and we get to send people to compete with,” Cantrell said. “We can grow teams of real paintball players, people who love the sport and love people in the sport. That was the goal and still is, and we are still slowly growing towards that.”
The team has been built up slowly over the course of the last two years. Cantrell spent much of his time on the recruitment trail, gauging interest from anyone who was willing to listen. He sat in meetings, dealt with paperwork, re-established a club sponsor (something he will have to do again once the academic semester is over as the current sponsor is set to leave Baylor) and continues to try to get funding from Baylor.
Cantrell has managed to recruit five other guys to join the paintball club. Three of those players have lots of experience on the paintball field, but two of them are new to the sport. One of those guys was Denver, Colo., sophomore Justin Murphy, who had been in search of getting his paintball guns ready for NCPA competition.
“When it came time for me to leave for college, I had been playing paintball for three and a half years and was looking to play in the NCPA,” Murphy said. “I got in touch with the president (Colt), and when I showed up in August I found that I was only the second player on the team.”
Despite the lack of experience and personnel, when given the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the nation, Baylor not only refused to back down, the team embraced the challenge.
“We were going to wait for another season and wait until next year, and we heard that A&M was there. We have to go-go beat them and go shoot them,” Cantrell said. “What better motivation than to play against pros, so we went out there and had a good time.”
That opportunity came in a regional tournament played at the Fun on the Run Paintball Park in Fort Worth where Baylor played the No. 1-ranked Texas A&M team, No. 2 University of North Texas and No. 7 Texas.
Without question, Baylor entered the underdog. The other teams showed up in matching jerseys, university-sponsored vehicles and with years of professional experience for the Houston Heat and AC Dallas. Baylor brought one line of players, which consists of five and one reserve. Texas A&M and UNT brought four while Texas brought three. A&M shot 25 cases of paint that consists of roughly 2,000 paintballs each, Baylor shot 11. The other participants had their entry fee of $500 paid on their behalf, Baylor’s participants paid out of pocket.
Lacking in resources and experience, the odds were against the Baylor team. Not only did Baylor walk away with a second place finish, it walked away with respect from its opponents and the beginning of what will hopefully be meaningful relationships.
“The biggest takeaway was the relationships we made. It was great to take second, but the coolest part was showing up, not knowing a single soul there, showing up to someone else’s field and stepping on the field into quarterfinals against UNT. We had UNT and A&M fans for cheering for us,” Cantrell said. “We really developed relationships with other teams and the local field, stepping onto the field for finals. It was an amazing experience, all these friends we made in one day root for the underdog to knock off the No. 1 team in the country.”
One Texas A&M Aggie dad even offered to pay for Baylor’s dinner and gas to get home out of respect for the bold, competitive nature of Baylor Paintball.
Murphy said that experience showed the team’s willingness to fight for one another on the paintball field, something that would certainly bring them closer together.
“I got to see our team come together as brothers and begin fighting for each other. Big plays were made, and we came away with a finish second only to the current top dogs from down in College Station,” Murphy said. “We left for home with a little more experience and a lot more respect than we had arrived with. Overall, it was a blessing to be able to be a part of the team going through it.”
In tournament-style paintball, the game is played on a field 160 feet long by 150 feet wide. Each team presents five players who line with two on the frontline, two in the middle and one in the back as the watchman for the team. The goal is to either eliminate all the opposing players and reach the buzzer or flag or simply get to the buzzer first. Teams play best two of three to claim the match.
In the preliminary rounds, Baylor finished 2-2 in its matches before advancing to the quarterfinal with UNT. Baylor knocked off UNT 2-0 and A&M’s No. 2 line 2-1 in the semifinal match before ultimately falling 2-0 to A&M’s No. 1 line that has not lost in two years in the final.
Despite coming up short in the final, Cantrell has begun to build something worth taking notice of, and the tournament serves as a building block for things to come for Baylor Paintball.
“Even after being kicked hard, for them to just get up, smile, get off the field and take second place, it was amazing,” Cantrell said. “It was a proud moment as the president of the organization. It was an incredible experience.”
Baylor Paintball continues its search for more players to join the club. They practice every Saturday at Powerplay Paintball and then scrimmage from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday after attending 8:40 a.m. service at Highland Baptist Church.