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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Small wins national Punt, Pass & Kick title

Monday, January 14, 2013

(Photo courtesy of USA Football) Hinton's Jay Small (back row, 10th from the left, in a purple jersey) competed at the National Finals for the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick contest at Atlanta, Ga., this weekend and took first place in the nation in his age group. He is pictured here with all of the other finalists in the boys and girls categories in all age groups on the floor of the Georgia Dome.
It came down to the last kick for Jay Small.

The Hinton 14 year old was on the floor of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta this past Saturday, competing in the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick National finals.

Small had made it through three other levels of competition to be there, among the top four boys in his age group in the United States.

Then, at the National Finals in Atlanta, Jay had two tries at getting the farthest punt-pass-kick combination to win the national title.

First, Jay kicked a 136-foot punt.

Then he tacked on a 154-foot, 11-inch pass.

"He had a really nice pass," Jay's dad Joel said.

That distance put him a few feet behind another boy in the 14-15 age category.

"I thought I was doing pretty good," Jay said. "My punt was pretty good and my pass was pretty good."

His first kickoff was about 98 feet, not enough for him to take the title.

But Jay's second kickoff attempt flew 126 feet and 8 inches.

Another boy had a longer kick, but Jay's total surpassed all the other 14-15 year olds.

His Punt, Pass & Kick (PP&K) total was 417.7 feet, about 7.5 feet ahead of the next competitor.

"Jay came through on his final kick," Joel said.

The Smalls weren't sure if Jay won until the announcer read the winners' names.

"He looked up at us," Jay's mom Sandy said. "He was overjoyed and really proud."

"I was excited," Jay said.

Jay received a special NFL Punt, Pass & Kick helmet as a trophy marking his win.

The Punt, Pass & Kick National Finals took place Saturday at the Georgia Dome, and Jay and the other winners were honored at halftime of the Atlanta Falcons' win over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.

First, Jay and the other 40 participants from all age groups of the NFL PP&K National Finals stepped out onto the field in front of thousands of fans to be introduced.

"They each got to throw a pass down the field with everyone in the dome watching," Joel said. "They were up on the big screen, so that was kind of exciting."

Jay said he liked getting to throw that pass, and he threw pretty well, too.

"It was cool," he said. "When you throw your pass, the whole crowd goes 'Oooooooooh!' And there are about 80,000 people there."

Then Jay and the other winners stayed on the field for a live FOX news broadcast after the third quarter to be introduced to the national TV audience and on the Georgia Dome's big screen.

"The atmosphere at the Dome was amazing," Sandy said. "The game was probably one of the best games of football I have ever seen, and it was a fun place to be today."

It was a packed weekend for Jay's family.

After the competition Saturday, Jay and the other finalists and their families were treated to food, a visit from the Atlanta Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes, and time to hang out.

Jay said he enjoyed getting to know some of the other contestants from across the nation.

"It was pretty fun," he said.

The family has already been getting calls from people to congratulate Jay, Joel said.

"We're very proud of him and grateful he got the opportunity to shine," Sandy said. "It was a fun time for us all."

Joel agreed.

"It's unbelievable what he has accomplished," Joel said of Jay. "We're very proud of him."

Joel, who coaches varsity girls basketball for Hinton Community School, had to hustle to get to the 10 a.m. Saturday contest to watch Jay.

Joel coached Hinton's basketball game Friday at Orange City, then went home for a few hours before heading to Omaha to catch an early-morning flight to Atlanta.

He arrived in Georgia at 8:50 a.m., took a train toward the Dome, and jogged the last few blocks. He got in just in time to watch the whole competition.

"The kids got to spend a lot of time on the floor of the Georgia dome, even after the competition," Joel noted. "They were playing catch or kicking, and small groups were playing little football games while they were tallying up the totals."

Both Joel and Sandy have been involved in Jay's journey to the national PP&K title.

Jay's mom was the one who originally tracked down the Punt, Pass & Kick program for Jay to compete in, and his dad has spent many hours practicing with Jay outside.

"I mostly practiced with my dad, but mom sometimes helps out when he's not home," Jay said.

The 14 year old was one of more than three million youth participating in the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick program this year.

He has participated in it for several years, even going to the National Finals in 2009, but this was his first time winning it all.

This year, Jay won a local competition at Sergeant Bluff, then the regional contest at Onawa with a 460-foot distance.

That qualified him for the Vikings Team Championship in Minneapolis, which he won for the third time.

He was notified in December that his distance at the Team Championships qualified him for National Finals.

The win at Atlanta capped his year, but Jay said he'll be back to compete in Punt, Pass & Kick contests again as a 15-year-old.

"Next year will be my last year," he said.

His mom encouraged other youth to get involved in the PP&K program.

It is open to boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 15.

Sandy encouraged interested parents and youth to visit www.nflppk.com for more information or even to set up a local competition.

"It's just really been a fun experience for Jay, and I think others might like it too," she said.

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Really cool. My family was watching the game and when they announced Jay's name, we rewound and watched again. Great day and great for Plymouth County and Hinton. Way to go!!!!

-- Posted by gunner2012 on Mon, Jan 14, 2013, at 1:57 PM

Congrats Jay! What an accomplishment :)

-- Posted by bksportsfan on Mon, Jan 14, 2013, at 4:02 PM

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