The Green Bay Packers’ Divisional Playoff victory over the Atlanta Falcons Jan. 15 turned out to be more than just a celebration for Packers fans with a victory over the Atlanta Falcons. For four young fans representing the Packers and the state of Wisconsin, the weekend turn out to be a celebration for a different championship.
After advancing to the final phase of the five-month-long national Punt Pass & Kick competition, Dominic Berlin, Blake Marquardt, Malik Muhammad, and Chloe Wanink were four Wisconsin residents representing the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta.
The four made it to the main stage after winning their age division at the local, state and team championship competitions held throughout the NFL regular season.
Following the final phase of the competition, Berlin, Muhammad, and Wanink were awarded with the national title for their respective age divisions.
The three were recognized by Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson in between the third and fourth quarters of Saturday’s Packers-Falcons game.
The Punt, Pass and Kick Competition, which was established in 1961, draws in more than three million boys and girls from around the country. And for these four Wisconsinites to make it to the final phase, the adage ‘one-in-a-million’ no longer seems so unattainable.
Chloe Wanink of Cameron, Wis., took the title in the 12-13 year-old division with a final total of 293 feet 2 inches, recording a punt of 103 feet, 3 inches, a pass of 104 feet, 6 inches and a kick of 85 feet, 5 inches.
For Wanink and her family, representing the Green Bay Packers at a playoff game was just as exciting as winning the title.
“I thought competing in the PPK National Championship at the Georgia Dome was awesome and an amazing experience,” Wanink said.
“Being able to represent the Packers at the competition and then have the opportunity to watch them play made the experience even more special and something I will never forget.”
Wanink’s family was proud to see her make it to the final competition and happy to experience the journey with her.
“Being from Wisconsin, we are huge Packers fans,” Wanink’s father Nick Wanink said. “So for Chloe to be there representing the team was amazing. The trip was excellent and a lot of fun for our whole family.”
Wanink has competed in Punt, Pass and Kick in the past, but this was the first time she had made it to the national championship. And for Wanink, the constant encouragement from her biggest supporter helped her make it this far.
“Her younger sister Carli has been her biggest supporter,” Wanink’s father said. “She has been there by her side throughout the competition helping her prepare and stay motivated.”
To show her appreciation, Wanink gave her younger sister the autographed football she was presented with from the NFL.
With a national championship title and amazing experience for the Wanink family to share, the journey could not have been any better.
“We didn’t have a single complaint,” Wanink’s father said of the weekend. “It was an amazing experience and something Chloe and we will never forget. We are proud of her and glad our family got to experience it with her.”
Muhammad, of Sheboygan, Wis., found victory after beating three other finalists in the 10-11 year-old division with a final score of 303 feet, 1 inch. Muhammad recorded a punt of 66 feet, 4 inches, a pass of 129 feet, 9 inches and a kick of 107 feet.
As a first time PPK participant, Muhammad didn’t let the final competition keep him from performing his best.
“The whole thing was a lot of fun,” Muhammad said. “During the competition I felt calm and was ready to compete.”
Muhammad was joined by his parents at the national championship and while they admit the day of the competition was stressful for them, he wasn’t distracted.
“We all enjoyed the experience,” Malik’s mother Bayyinah said. “It was great to meet all the other participants and Wisconsin residents. The day of the competition was pretty stressful but Malik enjoyed every minute.”
Winning the 14-15 year-old division was Dominic Berlin of Eau Claire, Wis., with a final total of 497 feet, 8 inches. Berlin recorded a punt of 150 feet, 4 inches, a pass of 170 feet and a kick of 177 feet, 4 inches.
Berlin, who has been competing in the PPK since the age of eight, couldn’t have asked for a better way to end his eight years of participation.
“This was my last year competing in Punt, Pass and Kick,” Berlin said. “So from the beginning it was my main goal to make it to the team championship at Lambeau Field. But when I ended up advancing to the national championship in Atlanta, I couldn’t believe it.”
Berlin’s eight years of experience has brought him several rewards as he took third place at last year’s National Championship in San Diego.
“I just took each competition one phase at a time, so the whole journey has been great. But to see the Packers again down in Atlanta was awesome.”
Prior to the final competition Berlin and the three other Wisconsin representatives took part in the Packers pregame festivities. All four attended the Packers tailgate party which helped them gear up for not only their competition but the Packers-Falcons game as well.
With this year’s competition being his last, Berlin plans to continue to show his football skills at the next level.
“Growing up I only played flag football,” Berlin said. “I haven’t played on any organized or high school teams, but I think I am going to try next year.”
For more information on the Punt, Pass and Kick competition or to register visit http://www.nflppk.com/
For more photos from the Punt, Pass and Kick National Championship click here