Despite a muggy morning, hundreds of kids turned out for Petal's first ever NFL Punt Pass and Kick competition at Petal Panthers Stadium. And what's an NFL sponsored event without a few former NFL players.
Forrest native and Southern Miss alum Todd Pinkston, who played in the NFL for 7 seasons, making it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2005 with the eagles, volunteered at the camp alongside Magee Native and Ole Miss alum Kris Mangum.
Mangum enjoyed nine years in the NFL and a trip to the Super Bowl with the Panthers in 2006. Today, both simply enjoyed watching hundreds of youngsters in attendance chuck and kick the pigskin.
"You want to be a mentor to the kids," said former Southern Miss standout Todd Pinkston, "First and foremost it's all about the kids. Make sure the kids are having fun."
"It's just great," said Mangum, "It was great for me for 10 years to be able to play, and just to be able to give back to the community and the kids, and to be a part of it is pretty special."
A pretty special day, that almost didn't happen. What started off as an attempt at a simple fund-raiser turned into the competition coming to Petal. "We were looking to do some sort of fund raiser for the school district then it turned into not so much a fundraiser, but more just something for our kids," shared Mangum.
And even after Petal organized the event, it wasn't until the last minute Mangum and Pinkston were asked to come. "It was last-minute for us," said Pinkston, "Coach (Marcus) Boyles had said we got something to do on Saturday."
Luckily for those in attendance, they agreed, and the kids received a free day of football and professional mentoring. The event itself consists of boys and girls, ages six through 15, competing in three skills competitions. They must throw the farthest, punt the farthest, and kick the farthest off a tee.
The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners for boys and girls, after Saturday, get to move on to the next level of competition in Meridian. The national winners will get to compete during halftime of an NFL playoff game. Mangum says he'll work to bring the competition back to Petal a year from now.
"Anytime we can have an event like the NFL Punt Pass and Kick, which is one of the long standing traditions of the NFL," said Mangum, "to have in this area, and for the kids to come out here at no cost just to compete, it's been a really great day."