9-year-old passes way into Coliseum
December 9, 2003
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Austin Buyak of Stateline didn’t get to punt, kick or throw the football during his Pop Warner season with the Carson Senators this fall.
But that didn’t discourage the 9-year-old from entering the annual NFL Pepsi Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
The Zephyr Cove Elementary School student practiced with his grandfather and a family friend and has advanced through local and sectional qualifying.
“I just like football and when my PE teacher announced it, I got involved,” Buyak said. “I always wanted to be a quarterback and never got to be one and I always wanted to be one of the punters or kickers, but I was always a linebacker.”
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Buyak will compete for one of four national spots in his 8- and 9-year-old division on Sunday at the Oakland Coliseum. The competition will occur during halftime of the Raiders-Ravens’ 1:15 p.m. game. Winners will be announced between the third and fourth quarters.
Not many third-graders get an opportunity to perform in Oakland Coliseum, so obviously Buyak is somewhat shaken by the whole experience.
“I’m kind of nervous, but I’ll act like I’m not even there,” he said.
Boys and girls ages 8 to 15 are eligible for the free fall competition. Participants are scored on one pass, one punt and one placekick.
Scores are based on the distance and accuracy of each attempt. If a player throws a pass 90 feet and it lands 20 feet wide of measuring tape that marks the middle of the field, he or she scores 70 points. The participant with the highest combined score for all three phases of the game, wins.
“I’m doing good in all three of them,” Buyak said.
He scored 93 for passing, 78 for kicking and 82 for punting at the sectional event in Reno.
Chardonnae Andrews attributes her boy’s success to the practice he’s put in with his grandfather, Tom Buyak, and former Whittell High girls’ soccer coach Mike Leeper.
“They are out in the cold passing all of the time,” Andrews said.
Andrews admits that she initially took her son’s accomplishments for granted when he came home from school one day to spill his big news.
“Then they started sending things in the mail and the last time he went it was more exciting,” she said. “I don’t really care about football, but as long as he wants to do it, that’s fine with me.”
Before a winter storm hit the area on Tuesday night, Buyak got in some practice time with Leeper.
“I go out there with a big jacket on and we practice three or four days out of the week,” he said.
National finalists receive an all-expense-paid trip for three, plus three tickets to an AFC playoff game Jan. 10 or 11. That playoff game could involve his favorite team – the Kansas City Chiefs.
Even if Buyak doesn’t make it, you’d think he’d get a chance to kick, punt or pass next football season.
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