Kevin Millward missed his classes Monday at Evans Middle School, but he had a pretty good excuse - the seventh-grader wasn't about to miss the chance of a lifetime at the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick National Finals.
Millward advanced through three qualifying stages to earn a spot in the finals, which were Saturday in Nashville, Tenn., and he made the most of his trip by taking the title in the 12-13 age division.
"Each step, I was like, 'Oh, I'm not going to make it,"' the 13-year-old said.
The competition was sponsored by the National Football League and Gatorade, and the finals were in conjunction with the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Millward, who won the Atlanta Falcons Team Championship last month, was one of four finalists in his age group competing in Nashville.
"I was really nervous," he said. "There was a lot of people watching, and a CBS crew was filming us."
With the pressure on, Millward came through on his final kick at the Tennessee Titans practice facility. He hit the longest placekick of the four finalists to finish with a total distance of 341 feet, 5 inches to beat his closest competitor by six feet.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"I really wanted to win," Millward said after claiming the championship. "I thought for sure I was in second place. But when they called another kid up front for second place, I knew I'd won."
Later Saturday afternoon, a lot more people knew he'd won. During the break between the second and third quarters of the Pittsburgh-Tennessee game, the champs from each age group assembled on the field and were announced to the crowd, and to a national television audience.
"That was nerve-wracking, going out on the field in front of all those people," Millward said.
Millward is a three-sport star at Evans Middle. He is a fullback, kicker and linebacker in football, and also plays basketball and baseball for the Knights.
He says baseball is his favorite sport, but now that he's made a name for himself by winning the Punt, Pass and Kick crown, football is a close second.
"Football isn't at the top, but it's climbing," Millward said. "This has pumped up my confidence. I plan to be back in the Punt, Pass and Kick competition next year."
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