by Steve Peterson
Jay Small of Hinton, son of Joel and Sandy Small and grandson of Jim and Edie Small of Akron, was the 14- and 15-year-old boys winner in the National Football League’s Punt, Pass and Kick (PPK) competition that concluded Jan. 12 in Atlanta, Ga.
Small, representing the Minnesota Vikings, edged out Grant Steinborn, the Detroit Lions representative in the age group, with a total of 417.70 feet to 410.20 feet.
The PPK competition, part of the NFL’s Play 60 campaign for more physically fit youth, is in its 50th year. An NFL league official congratulated the winners, both boys and girls, at the NFC Divisional playoff game between Atlanta and Seattle. Atlanta won 30-28 on a last-second field goal.
During the game, the 40 finalists were introduced to the crowd. The 10 winners were introduced live on Fox television and presented commemorative footballs and helmets.
“We had a great weekend. Jay and Sandy were there since Friday. He got to practice on the Georgia Dome field. Before the competition, they were throwing touchdown passes and kicking field goals,” said Joel Small.
Jay was in the lead against Steinborn for the first portion, the pass and then the punt. The first kick went only 98 feet for Jay while Steinborn’s went much farther, putting Jay behind going into the final kick. Jay booted a 126.8-footer for the finale and won by seven feet.
As judges were tallying up the scores, the contestants mingled and continued to play on the Georgia Dome turf on Saturday morning as parents watched. Jay got to know Bridger Beus, the Denver Broncos’ representative in the age group.
Final standings for the age 14-15 group for boys were Small with 417.70 feet; Steinborn had 410.20 feet; Matthew Taisky, representing the Carolina Panthers, had 395.30 feet; and Beus had 365.70 feet.
Dad Joel joined the fun with about an hour to spare that day as his Hinton girls’ basketball team had won a showdown game with Unity Christian, 55-49, the night before. His team had a 10-1 overall record.
A Falcons’ player who was on the injured reserve and did not play Sunday, Brent Grimes, greeted the families at the tailgate afterward and signed autographs, said Joel. Then it was on to their fame at the end of the third quarter of the Falcons’ game.
Jay, age 14, can return to defend his national PPK title next year which he plans to do unless it interferes with the high school football season. He was a member of a Junior High Blackhawk team that went undefeated last Fall, and is a freshman on a Hinton team that recently played in the Iowa State Championship game, something the Hinton fans would love to see again in 2013.
For now, it is time to enjoy the limelight as Jay’s travelling basketball team’s season continues.