Saturday in Pittsburgh, Thomas Vander Gailen, an 11-year-old from Randolph, Wisconsin, made the Green Bay Packers proud as he won the national championship for the 10-11 year-old boys division of the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Competition.
In a competition where each contestant gets one punt, one pass, and one kick, Vander Gailen's combined distance was 301 feet, 7 inches, winning his division by more than 22 feet.
Thomas bested the boyhood efforts of legendary Packers' quarterback Brett Favre, who is one of many current NFL stars to have participated in the competition in their younger days.
Another Wisconsin youth participated in the finals, with Saukville's Mikayla Hilton placing second in the 8-9 year-old girls division.
Starting from a pool of 3.5 million talented participants, eight national champions were crowned Saturday at the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice facility prior to kickoff of the Steelers-Jets AFC Divisional Playoff game.
Thirty-two youngsters from 19 states competed in eight divisions with each participant performing one punt, pass and kick. Scores were based on distance minus accuracy.
2004 NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick National Champions:
8-9 Year-Old Girls Champion: ALEXIS BANTZ, Oakland, NE (Chiefs)
8-9 Year-Old Boys Champion: DUMSIRA NWIBIABU, Salt Lake City, UT (Broncos)
10-11 Year-Old Girls Champion: MAKAYLA BECKER, Thompson Falls, MT (Seahawks)
10-11 Year-Old Boys Champion: THOMAS VANDER GAILEN, Randolph, WI (Packers)
12-13 Year-Old Girls Champion: WHITNEY FLETCHER, Decatur, GA (Falcons)
12-13 Year-Old Boys Champion: A.J. FIRESTONE, Mercersburg, PA (Ravens)
14-15 Year-Old Girls Champion: KARLEE MCQUILLEN, Johnstown, PA (Steelers)
14-15 Year-Old Boys Champion: SPENCER CLARE, Double Oak, TX (Cowboys)
The eight first-place finishers were introduced live on CBS between the third and fourth quarters of Saturday's AFC Divisional Playoff game national telecast. Highlights of the competition were televised right before halftime.
More information about the competition, including top scores from all age divisions, is on **www.NFLYouthfootball.com**, the NFL's official youth football website.
The NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick program is part of the NFL's "Dream Big. Play Big." 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 NFL youth football programs include NFL FLAG, Junior Player Development, and High School Player Development.