Melanie Miller takes first place in NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Championships
St. Theresa School sixth grader Melanie Miller had the experience of a lifetime when she won first place in the 10-11 age group for girls at the New Orleans Saints NFL Team Punt, Pass and Kick Championships.
The event was held Dec. 12 at the Louisiana Superdome game as the Saints took on the St. Louis Rams.
The NFL Team Championship round marked the third round of competition.
Every year, millions of boys and girls from around the country take part in the competition, which has been around since the 1960s.
The events are free and open to boys and girls ages 8-15.
Running from July through January, it is one of the world’s largest youth sports participation programs.
Each year the Saints play host to the Team Championship level of competition for its area.
Miller, 11, began her journey to the Superdome by competing in the local round that was held in Gonzales in September, where she won first place.
She advanced to Sectionals on Oct. 17, held in New Roads. While there, Miller competed against other local winners from local competitions held throughout the Baton Rouge area.
Miller placed first in the New Roads sectionals, and she became eligible for her scores to be compared to all Sectionals winners throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and parts of Florida.
The NFL only allows four competitors from each age group to advance onto the NFL Team Championships. Only the top four scores from the Sectionals in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and parts of Florida could advance to the Saints Team Championships.
Miller’s Sectionals scores were high enough to advance her into the Team Championship round. She finished up as a New Orleans Saints Team Champion, winning first place in the 10 – 11 age group for girls.
Miller’s team championship experience began when participants had to report to the Superdome at 10 a.m. on game day for the competition. Once there, the participants were checked in, had their identification verified with birth certificates, were issued their Saints team Punt, Pass and Kick jerseys and t-shirts. Then participants were walked through the halls of the dome past the team lockers rooms and onto the field.
This was the point where Miller felt her first big sense of excitement; prior to that, she had only felt nervousness. Once the participants were on the field, they had to wait for the field to be cleared since it was being used by the Saintsations for the pre-game warm ups for the game time routines.
As the Saintsations exited the field, they waved and wished the participants good luck. Once the field was cleared, the participants were given time to stretch, warm up,and practice.
“We even got to see the Rams players walking across the field in their uniforms while we were warming up,”?Miller said. “We had to stop for a minute so we didn’t hit them.”
After about 30 minutes of practice, the competition began. Each participant was allowed one punt, one pass and one kick. Their scores were judged on distance and accuracy. After the competition was completed, the participants then practiced their pre-game routine in which they were all going to be announced and given the opportunity to run through the Saints tunnel before the kickoff. Once that was completed, the participants were taken into one of the Superdome suites and served lunch.
After the meal, the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick representative announced the winners and gave out prizes. They were then taken back down to the field for the pre-game events.
The participants were announced right before kickoff, and they ran out of the tunnel and lined up with the cheerleaders for the Saints players’ entrance. The final winners of the competition were taken to the side and announced as the Team Competition Champions and then taken back into the tunnel to lead out the Saints onto the field.
This is when Miller had her best chance to interact with the Saints players.
“I was high-fiving Drew Brees and Jeremy Shockey,”?she said. “Shockey was a giant. He almost plowed me over. All the players were very nice and big.”
Miller and the other winners were congratulated by Brees, Shockey, and the other Saints players for winning the competition.
The scores from Miller and other winners from the different age groups have been sent onto the national level of competition.
The four highest scorers from each age group across the nation will gather to compete at an NFL playoff game this month.
Miller is a resident of Prairieville and the daughter of Mike and Sivi Miller.