The referee yells "10 seconds," and five UCF Knights take their position on the field to begin the match.

For some people, the game may be a Sunday afternoon hobby or a birthday-weekend bash; but for the 10 guys on the roster, it has become a way of life.

Paintball is the sport of choice for these Knights, and they have honed their craft quite well over the years.

"When the club first formed, we had to go to a meeting and a guy asked us, 'Do we have any athletes out here?' We all raised our hands and everybody looks at us, 'Oh, what do you guys play?' And we're like, 'Paintball,'" said Chris Wells, who graduated in Dec. 2014 with a degree in mechanical engineering. "It's a real, competitive sport. It's a lifestyle."

UCF just wrapped up the National Collegiate Paintball Association's 2015 National Championships in Lakeland. The team lost in a semifinal matchup to the eventual National Champions, Florida Atlantic University and went home with a fourth place finish in the 20-team tournament.

The Knights were crowned the 2014 National Champions after winning all six matchups and defeating UConn in the finals.

They won the 2013 and 2014 Collegiate World Cups as well.

Paintball has many different formats, but the Knights participate in a setup called X-Ball.

X-Ball entails two teams playing five-on-five in two 10-minute halves separated by a five-minute intermission. The 10-minute clock only stops when all five players have been eliminated from one team, and the flag at the center of the field is taken to the opposing team's side.

Paintball guns, or markers, can cost up to $1,500, and a sufficient amount of paint for a single tournament can have a price tag of up to $100 per player.

The team's sponsors give them discounted rates on products, though. It even received 50 cases of free paint because they won the 2014 National Championships, which resulted in around $1,750 saved.

"This is not the most convenient sport … Soccer, you can pick up a ball, kick it around [and] you're playing soccer. Basketball, you need a net and a ball [and] you're playing," said Zak Daughtry, a senior marketing major and founder of the team. "I started out doing the basic sports … and [paintball's] the only thing I've been good at."

Daughtry inherited the team when it was already a registered student organization, and was able to forgo the one-year waiting period that is required before becoming an official sports club in 2012.

He said the experience has been huge for him, and the tools he has learned will transfer to the professional world.

"[I used to just go] out there and play. I never had to deal with behind-the-scenes [and] the funding," Daughtry said. "Starting an organization helps you have a much more broad perspective on all of that."

The sports club status allows them to use the UCF logo on their jerseys.

"Playing here, for the school, is the best thing in the world," said Zac Cooke, who graduated in December 2014 with a degree in history. "You tell people you're playing for the school, and it really means something."

Most team members have been playing paintball for at least 10 years, none would trade the game for anything.

"It has been an outlook," said senior health sciences major Brandon Mojica, who has been on the team for four years. "I don't know where I'd be without paintball."


Jarrod Heil is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Find him on Twitter@JHeil11.