Punt, Pass, Kick competition draws youthful Broncos fans
On the first Sunday of the NFL regular season, a small piece of the NFL found itself in Grand Junction’s Stocker Stadium.
After the Denver Broncos’ miraculous win 12-7 win against the Cincinnati Bengals, area athletes were looking to take the first step toward rubbing elbows with NFL stars during Grand Junction’s Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
PPK began in 1961 and is the NFL’s oldest youth program. Grand Junction Parks and Recreation supervisor Shon Birch organized the local competition, and said Grand Junction has had the program for the past 15 years.
“It’s a good nationwide program that kids can get in to,” Birch said. “Typically on any PPK day, we’ll have more than 50 kids.”
Sunday’s event was the first step for making it to a national stage. Boys and girls 8 to 15 each got one pass, one place-kick and one punt. The scores were then added up, and the top competitor in each group moves on to a sectional.
The sectional will be conducted Oct. 25 at Stocker Stadium.
“There are eight or nine sectionals in the Denver Broncos region,” Birch said. “We have about nine different agencies come from as far away as Meeker to Durango.”
From the sectional, the top five of any sectional move on to a state competition held at the Broncos practice facility at Dove Valley, which includes tickets to a Broncos game.
From the state competition, the top competitors across the nation are honored during one of the NFL playoff games.
Brad Baker is a Grand Junction 12-year-old who shared the goal of the competitors there, to make it to the Broncos game.
“It would very cool,” Baker said. “I’ve thought about being there, and have had dreams of it.”
Baker was competing in his first Pun, Pass and Kick competition and said he felt his strength was going to be punting.
“I’m the punter for my (Mesa County Junior Football Association) lightweight team the Broncos,” Baker said. “So I’m thinking 30 yards or plus.”
In the girls competition, Baseley McClaskey was also attending her first competition. Coming in with a soccer background, McClaskey’s strategy was to do well enough at kicking and punting to make up for the passing.
“This is my first time so I don’t know how I’ll do,” McClaskey said. “I play soccer, so passing will be the hardest.”
Although expectations are a good thing to have, Birch said a lot of kids feel the pressure of only having one opportunity during each part of the competition.
“There is the Rockies’ Skills Competition during the summer, and there you get three chances at everything,” Birch said. “But at the PPK there is a little pressure added because you only get one shot.”
As far as Sunday’s winners, Jacob Brown won the 8-9 year-old boys, Truth Hafey won the 10-11 year-old girls, Jake Chaffetz won the 10-11 year-old boys, Taylor Chaffetz won the 12-13 year-old girls, and Vinny Gullickson won the 12-13 year-old boys.
There will be another PPK hosted Sept. 27 by the city of Fruita at Fruita Monument High School.