A craft that McAfee has mastered to become one of the top NFL punters was the sight for him to see when Sophia Saucerman (10-11 age group) and Kristina Lynch (12-13 age group) took their turns in showing the Colts punter their own “boomsticks.”
Saucerman and Lynch were at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on Tuesday in preparation for the 51st annual NFL Punt, Pass & Kick National Finals that will take place this weekend in Atlanta.
The duo headed to the practice field for a dry run of what they will face this weekend. Their talents certainly impressed McAfee.
“They are kicking the ball further than me it looks like,” McAfee said. “I’ve been watching these girls throw and kick and they are good, really good. I hope they win it all.”
Winning it all is something McAfee has experienced himself.
In 2003, McAfee captured the 14-15 age division of the NFL Punt Pass & Kick National Finals, and that moment helped turn him from a soccer player into one of the nation’s finest kickers.
“I remember it like was yesterday. My mom kind of talked me into doing it to begin with and then I won, and that kind of started my career actually as a kicker,” McAfee said.
“It was kind of cool and something that spring boarded me into (playing football). I don’t want to say I was built to do it, but I had a strong leg and could throw the ball far so I kind of lucked out to do it.”
A pair of former national winners joined McAfee on the field Tuesday in Lynch and her father, Greg.
As Kristina fired 30 -yard passes, Greg was on the receiving end talking about his experience 31 years ago in capturing the title.
“It’s an amazing experience,” Greg Lynch said. “It’s unique in that you have to have a certain skill set to be able to do this at this level and then to have it passed on to my daughter is pretty cool.”
The Lynch family will carry fond memories of its last trip to Atlanta where Kristina captured the 2011 title in the 10-11 age group.
Kristina is a softball and soccer player in northern Indiana and Greg credits the experiences in those sports to her success in earning a return trip to the finals.
A mere 10 yards away from Kristina was Saucerman, who also points toward her background in soccer as to why she qualified for the national competition.
Saucerman’s eyes lit up on Tuesday when McAfee, her favorite player on the Colts, entered the practice facility and offered some encouraging words as a past champion.
“I couldn’t even image anything like this. It was amazing,” the Indianapolis native Saucerman said of meeting and getting an autographed football from McAfee.
On Friday, the two families, along with Garrett Elder, will head to Atlanta to represent the Colts at the national finals. The competition will have 20 boys and girls split into different age groups.
The awards presentation will take place during the Falcons-Seahawks NFC Divisional Playoff game on Sunday. Each family has its airfare, hotel accommodations and tickets supplied by USA Football.
Across the nation, thousands of kids ages 6-14 made their way through local and sectional competitions with only 40 earning a trip to Atlanta.
The Colts will have three representatives this weekend after the trio qualified during the Indiana section that took place on Nov. 25 at the Colts-Buffalo game.
“It’s almost beyond description,” Greg Lynch said of the journey. “To be in the stadium and have (Kristina) compete in the dome and then to have her come here and tour this facility and meet some of the guys, it’s an unbelievable experience that not too many of the kids can say they’ve had.”