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Las Vegas kids try to be next Andy Reid at Punt, Pass, Kick finals

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid’s first exposure to a larger football audience wasn’t him roaming the sidelines leading a team.

An infamous viral video of Reid shows him as a 13-year-old participating in a Punt, Pass and Kick competition during halftime of a Los Angeles Rams game in 1971 on “Monday Night Football.” He stood out — literally — as he towered over the rest of his competitors.

Reid’s team will not take the field at Allegiant Stadium for Super Bowl 58 until Feb. 11. But on Saturday, some of the top youth football players from across the country were in Las Vegas as they continue on their journeys to potentially be the next Patrick Mahomes or Christian McCaffrey.

PPKUSA, a nonprofit organization that started in 2018 after the NFL dropped its Punt, Pass and Kick program after the 2016 season, held its annual National Finals at Mojave High School, featuring 50 kids — boys and girls ranging from 6 to 15 years old — from 33 states.

“It’s mainly about getting them active, hopefully having a bit healthier lifestyle, being more productive, doing well in school, things like that,” Frank Wittenberg, PPKUSA executive director and president, said. “It gives them a chance to see if they’re good — whether it’s a football skill or not — and help promote the sport of football.”

Wittenberg, a high school and college referee in his home state of Louisiana, was a volunteer for the NFL’s program for more than 20 years. When he started PPKUSA in 2018, he made a few changes, including adding other events beyond punting, passing and kicking.

“It’s too good of a program not to have something free for kids to get them involved,” Wittenberg said. “We made several, including adding a 40-yard dash and broad jump and more like a little mini-combine competition now.”

Four Las Vegans were among the 50 competitors, including 11-year-old twin sister and brother G’Justice Owens and Gerald Owens III. G’Justice was one of six girls who qualified for the National Finals.

The twins said it was “cool” to be a part of the National Finals with the Super Bowl coming up next week and to compete in the event as brother and sister. They both said the 40-yard dash was their favorite event.

Why?

“Because I’m fast,” Gerald III, who also plays baseball, said.

“Because it’s fun,” G’Justice, who’s a cheerleader, said.

Gerald Owens Jr., the twins’ father, said he hopes events like this continue to show kids they can “compete and have fun.”

“It gets everybody all dialed in and ramped up for the big Sunday,” Gerald Jr. said. “It gets the kids out and engaged with the sport.”

Other locals competing were Kane Esposito, who finished second in 14/15 boys, and Jason Hart in 8/9 boys.

Volunteers from Mojave and Bishop Gorman High School, along with the Southern Nevada Officials Association and Las Vegas NCAA referees, helped put the event on.

Wittenberg said he pays everything out of his pocket to put on the event. He said he’s hoping to get a sponsor soon or find a way to get the NFL back involved.

“I’d like to get (the NFL) back into it,” Wittenberg said. “But that’s gonna be their decision. Certainly. It’s nice having the (Super Bowl) here next week in Las Vegas with everybody coming in.”

Gerald Owens Jr. said he’s never seen the video of the 13-year-old Reid, but said he hopes events like this continue to help young athletes grow.

“It’s good. It’s the foundation of (sports),” Gerald Jr. said. “It’s a great thing, and hopefully the community can stay involved with things like this and put their kids in because you never know who the next person could be that we see on Sundays.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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