Starting from a field of 3.5 million enthusiastic participants, eight national champions will be crowned Sunday in the NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick National Finals at the Kansas City-Indianapolis AFC Divisional playoff game in Kansas City.
Mitch Wagner (boys 10-11), son of Packers director of ticket operations Mark Wagner, will be among the 32 youngsters from 18 states competing before the game in eight divisions with each participant performing one punt, one pass and one placekick. Scores will be based on distance minus accuracy (in feet).
The eight first-place finishers will be introduced live on CBS-TV between the third and fourth quarters of Sunday's game.
Both Wagner and Brock Makholm (boys 8-9), grandson of Packers director of corporate security Jerry Parins, took first place in the Team Championships prior to the Packers-49ers game, Nov. 23 at Lambeau Field.
Wagner's score was enough to place him in the top four nationally in his age division, qualifying him for the opportunity to compete in Kansas City.
In addition to Wagner, Natalie Baumgardt (girls 14-15) of Wausau, Wis. and Lance Kendricks (boys 14-15) of Milwaukee also placed in the top four nationally in their respective age divisions and will compete for the Punt, Pass & Kick National Championship.
"We were very excited when he made it through the first two stages and then when he came here and competed at Lambeau Field," Mark Wagner said. "To actually end up winning and then finishing in the top four in the nation is very cool for him. His brother, who helped coach him, and I will be in the stands cheering for him in Kansas City."
NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick is part of the NFL's "Play Football" initiative that provides exciting ways for even more children to play, watch and experience the game of football. According to a recent ESPN Sports Poll, football is the favorite sport of kids.
Additional "Play Football" programs include NFL Flag, Junior Player Development, and High School Player Development.
Current NFL stars who took part in the league's Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick program as youngsters include Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre, Buffalo Bills QB Drew Bledsoe, Baltimore Ravens K Matt Stover, New York Jets' QB Vinny Testaverde and Tampa Bay Buccaneers K Tom Tupa.
2003 Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick Finalists
Betsy Thomas, Sergeant Bluff, IA (Vikings)
Ashlynn Sexton, Lafayette, IN (Colts)
Taylor Ramirez, Rock Rock, TX (Texans)
Cara Miller, Farmington, MI (Lions)
Antonio Belford, Killeen, TX (Texans)
Chad Kelly, Grand Island, NY (Bills)
Alex Boy, Long Beach, CA (Chargers)
Will Hudson, Edwardsville, IL (Rams)
Merisa Rudy, Philadelphia, PA (Eagles)
Theresa Plaisance, Harvey, LA (Saints)
Maci Lewis, Siloam Springs, AR (Titans)
Samantha Springer, Greenwood Village, CO (Broncos)
Parrish Fells, York, PA (Ravens)
Turner Gill, Madras, OR (Seahawks)
Daniel Morse, Miami Lakes, FL (Dolphins)
Mitch Wagner, Green Bay, WI (Packers)
Jessica O'Shea, Spring Hill, FL (Buccaneers)
Ariel Gregersen, West Sacramento, CA (Raiders)
Jenna Doyle, Davis, CA (49ers)
Jordan Readlicker, Grapevine, TX (Cowboys)
Joseph Jackson, Ocala, FL (Jaguars)
Daniel Meacock, Sarasota, FL (Buccaneers)
Jacob Santure, Saline, MI (Lions)
Jared Broberg, Barnstable, MA (Patriots)
Natalie Baumgardt, Wausau, WI (Packers)
Ashley Malone, Hamlin, TX (Cowboys)
Alysha Cook, Kennewick, WA (Seahawks)
Caroline Vatelle, Sandwich, MA (Patriots)
Jared Witter, Lenexa, KS (Chiefs)
Nathan Bauer, Bay City, MI (Lions)
Lance Kendricks, Milwaukee, WI (Packers)
Evan McKeon, Palm Harbor, FL (Buccaneers)