Payson’s NFL/Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick winners will travel Oct. 18 to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff where they will represent the Rim Country in sectional competition.
Should any of the local qualifiers finish first there, they would earn the right to participate in the Arizona Cardinals finals to be contested prior to and during halftime of an upcoming game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
The Payson champions include Hunter Krahn, David Anderson, Todd McCarthy, Calli Carpenter, Shay England and Alix Parker.
Payson has a long and rich history in PP&K competition with many local athletes reaching the state level.
In 2001, Amy Wilcox almost kicked and threw her way to the PP&K national finals that were to be held during halftime of the National Football League’s AFC championship game.
Competing in the 14 to 15 years age division, she won the Payson, sectional and Arizona Cardinals championships. The Cards finals was held during halftime of an Arizona NFL game played in Sun Devil Stadium.
Her marks there, however, came up slightly short of qualifying her for the national finals.
Also that year, Shelton Keith won Payson and sectional championships, but in the Cardinals finals he came up a bit short admitting at the time he was extremely nervous.
In 2002, current Longhorn quarterback terback Jake Sleeper qualified for the Cardinals championships after winning Payson and sectional competitions.
Just two years later, Sleeper won the 10-11 years Payson crown, out-distancing current Longhorn teammate Payson Herring.
Also that year, former Longhorn standout lineman Scott Andrus won the 14-15 years Rim Country title.
In 2006, Justin Carlen overcame illness and a slight case of jitters to finish third in the Arizona competition held at Cardinals stadium in Glendale. The competition was held just prior to an Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks game. Earlier, Carlen was first in Payson and at NAU.
The largest turnout in the history of the local program occurred in 2004 when 68 entrants showed up to compete in cold, windy weather.
During that event, current Longhorn two-way football star Westin Gibson won the 10-11 years crown.
Several former and current NFL stars, including Troy Aikman and Drew Bledsoe, once competed in PP&K events.
The Punt, Pass and Kick competition began in 1961 and is open free of charge to boys and girls 8 to 15 years of age.
PP&K officials say more than four million youths from around the country participate annually in the program.