As Josh Heupel was making his way over to the huddled media for his standard Thursday press conference inside the UCF Knights’ practice facility, he was stopped in his tracks.
“Oh, I hadn’t seen that before,” he said with a tinge of excitement
Heupel had noticed one of the finer details — a small, gold astronaut holding an American Flag — on the helmet his players will sport Saturday versus the Houston Cougars during the program’s third annual Space Game.
The Space Game has quickly become a fan favorite because, among other reasons, it gives jersey enthusiasts something new to sink their teeth into. But the coaches and players look forward to it as well.
“The space uniform is maybe one of the most unique things in college football,” Heupel said. “I think we have a really unique story as far as how this university started, how the football program has been a part of it. Ultimately, the space uniforms are a great celebration of that.”
The players are a little more exuberant in their descriptions.
“Those uniforms are sick,” linebacker Eriq Gilyard said. “I think they let them out last Wednesday (Oct. 23); we’ve been talking about them ever since.”
“Man, when I first saw [the uniform] on Twitter, I went crazy,” wide receiver Tre Nixon said. ... “All white plus the helmets, too? I can’t wait for that game.”
The star of this year’s outfit seems to be the helmet, which was hand-painted and showcases a side of the cratered moon — light on the left, dark on the right — on separate sides of the helmet.
“When we saw the helmets and heard that they were hand-painted, each individual one, that was really cool,” center Jordan Johnson said. “It’s going to give us the swag or the charisma to go out there and play as well.”
⚔️ NEW PODCAST! ⚔️— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCF_Banneret) October 31, 2019
- @Jeff_Sharon & @Spokes_Murphy recap Temple
- Dustin & Sam of @SHPawdcast join to chat Houston
- @EricLopezELO helps Jeff break down #UCF’s fall sports
- @TravisMClark of @TopDrawerSoccer joins to talk @UCF_MSoccer #UCFinSpace #UCF https://t.co/I4d6E8dVrt
Some of the Knights paraphrased NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders this week when asked about the impact of putting on a good-looking attire. While people may scoff at the premise, the players say that a striking, attractive uniform can add to their performance.
“It always plays a role,” Nixon said. “Like everybody says, you look good, you feel good, you play good. Just when you feel like ‘I look good, I want to go make a play right now.’”
Added left guard Cole Schneider: “Whenever you’re wearing something that suits you, you just feel good and then you just feel like you’re playing fast.”
But no matter how you look, you still have to go out and make the plays. That fact isn’t lost on defensive tackle Kalia Davis.
“I feel like you want to look good, but you’ve also got to play good,” he said. “You don’t want to look good and play bad.”
Over the years, center Jordan Johnson has seen each of #UCF's three Space Game uniforms. His take on the 2019 uniforms, which the Knights will wear Saturday versus Houston: "This is definitely the best one so far." pic.twitter.com/KVK7tHE6Mq— Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) October 29, 2019
For other players, such as left tackle Edward Collins, the fit is cool, but the look doesn’t really matter; just give them the essentials and they will go play.
“For big guys ... as long as you’ve got cleats, shoulder pads and a helmet, you can pretty much wear whatever else you can find. I feel it’s different in the trenches.”
Regardless of where you stand on a uniform’s on-field effect, there is wide agreement inside the Knights’ locker room about the uniforms themselves.
“They’re sweet, man. They’re pretty unique,” Heupel said.