Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Andrew Johns, 13, of Buford and Omar Zachery, 7, of Lawrenceville will take part in the Punt, Pass & Kick National Championships and will be recognized during the Atlanta Falcons playoff game on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. Zachery will be competing in the 6-7 age group and Johns will be competing in the 12-13 age group.
Getting here isn't easy.
With hundreds of competitors and four qualifying levels, the NFL's Punt, Pass and Kick competition mixes talent with luck. But with three separate skills required, talent reigns.
Any surprise two of the 40 nationwide qualifiers are from Gwinnett?
Andrew Johns, 13, of Buford and Omar Zachery, 7, of Lawrenceville, both kicked and threw their way to Saturday's national competition at the Georgia Dome.
Omar explains this best.
"I am a beast," the Lawrenceville Elementary student said. "I am just really good."
Andrew, who started competing in Punt, Pass and Kick in elementary school, continued at the behest of his P.E. teacher and this year finally reached the national finals.
"It's fun," he said. "I like it."
There are four levels to the competition, a local qualifier, followed by a sectional and then a team qualifier at NFL games featuring each of the league's 32 teams. Andrew and Omar competed before the Falcons' Thursday night game against the Saints. From those events, the top four in each age and sex group from all 32 sites qualify for the national competition.
For the competition, each participant kicks the ball once, throws it once and punts it once. The scores are tallied from the distance the ball travels minus how far off the measured center line it lands. Omar scored a total distance of 169 feet, 2 inches, second best in his 6-7 age group.
"I am good at (kicking and punting), but the best one ... is throwing," Omar said. "I am the quarterback for the Black Knights 7-year-olds."
Johns scored a 364-4, also second-best.
"(I'm) probably (best at) the pass because it is the most accurate," said Andrew, who plays centerfield on his travel baseball team. "I can probably punt the farthest, but it's not always accurate."
Both have official Punt, Pass and Kick footballs and jerseys along with free tickets to Sunday's playoff game against Seattle. They will collect more swag during Saturday's competition, and if they win they'll be shown on national television.
Andrew said he's nervous about competing, but likes that he's comfortable with the venue. Though to be honest, he hoped to travel to another NFL stadium.
"I love the Falcons," he said. "I'd rather travel somewhere and go to San Francisco and watch them play, but also to be there and not be where I live."
Omar plans to keep practicing this week. He and and father work on the skills at Central Gwinnett's football stadium. At first he's modest about his chances, but changes his mind.
"I don't know (if I'm going to win)," he said. "I wish, I want to. ... Actually, I am. I practice a lot."