Ah, Punt, Pass & Kick. Like many of you, I grew up watching many a PP&K competition televised during halftime of various NFL games. I was always struck by how the participants got to wear the uniform of their hometown NFL teams. But as a Long Island kid who liked the Giants but liked the 49ers even more (a preference rooted in a Ken Willard card that I got in a box of Corn Flakes when I was seven), I always wondered if the kids had any choice regarding the uniforms they wore. Like, what if you lived in Miami but hated the Dolphins? Could you choose, say, a Steelers uniform instead? If I entered (which I never did), would I be allowed to wear a 49ers uniform?
With that question and other uni-related issues in mind, I recently asked readers to contribute any uni-related PP&K experiences they’d had while growing up. More than 30 people responded, most of whom said they never got out of the first round and therefore only got to wear T-shirts and sweatpants. But some others advanced several rounds into the competition, and a few additional folks had other visual details to share.
Most of the participants mentioned that they had fond memories of the colorfully illustrated tips booklet that was distributed to participants each year at local Ford dealerships. Jeff Ash was kind enough to scan the 1969 edition (which features some amazing visuals) and arrange it into a slideshow, which you can see here. (Jeff also found this photo of a PP&K pin on the web, although he says, perhaps semi-bitterly, “I remember nothing about a pin.”)
Here’s a good selection of additional contributions (with big thanks to all who responded):
• From Brian Flynn: “I made it to Giants Stadium as the Long Island champion representing the Jets in 2003 and 2005. Each team in the NFL has representatives who won the local contests, so yes, you must wear the jersey of the team you are representing. Once you arrive at the stadium, you check in at the practice bubble outside. They give you a uniform, which consists of a replica team jersey and gray sweatpants with the PP&K logo. The jerseys are the same kind you would buy at the store, but instead of numbers they have the PP&K logo heat-pressed on the front and the team’s logo on the back. The second time I appeared, they also gave us a tan hat with the PPK logo. The organizers of the event were very picky about having us wear it when we went out onto the field during halftime. Some of the other participants didn’t want to wear the cap but were forced to. Another interesting note: The second time I was there, they added the Pepsi logo to the sweatpants. I still have the uniform somewhere in my house.”
• From Chris Janke: “After I won the Western Massachusetts portion of the PP&K, I received a jersey in the mail, along with the rules and tickets to the Patriots game I would be competing at. The jersey had the PP&K logo on the front with two Patriots logos on the sleeves and FNOB in an unusually small font size. The jersey was the mesh kind that high schools use for practice. If I remember correctly, the number given was either the year, or 00, or something I wasn’t happy with. I’d wanted to wear No. 4 for my favorite player, Brett Favre. I think I even wore a Packers hat with the PP&K jersey during the competition. I brought cleats with me for the competition but was told by a ‘higher up’ that I couldn’t wear them because of the ‘unfair advantage over the others’ that they would provide. I finished third in the group of about 12 but didn’t advance any further (because I couldn’t wear cleats, obviously).”
• From Doc Ginn: “My older brother won the sixth grade competition one year, I believe, and received a Cleveland Browns jacket (our ‘home’ team at the time, pre-Bengals). It included a Browns patch that was the shape of the NFL shield but had the ‘Brownie’ logo within. When I won my competition, my prize was a Green Bay “autographed” football. When I got home and opened the box, I found, to my dismay, that all the ‘autographs’ were mass-printed on the ball, and a couple of them smeared as I pulled the ball from the box the first time. In fact, I remember leaving the ball in the box, because whenever I tried to remove it, I would invariably smear one of the autographs. It wasn’t that the ink was wet — it just wouldn’t stick to the leather ball very well.”
• From Robert Eden: “I recall wearing simply jeans and a T-shirt to the local PP&K competitions. I wasn’t good enough to advance to the regionals (or whatever they called it), but one year I did finish in third place locally — here’s the trophy.
• From Tommy Turner: “I participated in 1967 in Danville, Virginia. We received a Redskins gumball helmet keychain.” Tommy also provided photos of some MacGregor PP&K helmets (the kind used in PP&K nationals from 1960 through 1968) and also some Rawlings PP&K models (used from 1969 through ’73).
• From Steve Mandich: “I just wore my regular clothes for the PP&K and didn’t advance beyond the first round. I don’t remember seeing any related memorabilia, but I do remember the Punt, Pass & Kick Library book series.”
• From Bob Tusso: “My friend Paul Umhoefer won this helmet in a PP&K contest for the area around Stoughton, Wisconsin, in about 1965, when he was about 10 years old. He got second place, and seems to think that first place got a helmet and the chance to compete in a statewide contest. He doesn’t have the facemask for it anymore.”
• From Lee Whitaker: “I participated in my local competition (Paoli, Pennsylvania) in the mid-’70s. I won my age group at the local competition and advanced to the district final, where I finished fourth. For the local event, I competed in my Pop Warner uniform (think classic Patriots with red jersey and red pants), because the PP&K was held following our game. The local ‘awards’ ceremony was held in the showroom of the local Ford dealership, where I got to shake the sales manager’s hand and get my picture taken with Bill Bergey (#66) of the Eagles.”
• And from David Murphy: “My dad entered me in PP&K back around 1970. I was no athlete, but it made my day when my placekick sailed low but good enough for third place in my age group. … The kids who made the regional competitions wore those replica unis, complete with colored socks. They even wore replica helmets! To this day, I’m a sucker for those helmets whenever I see one selling for a dollar at a thrift store. Got dozens in my attic.”
Great stuff, people. Thanks for sharing.
Victory Lap: Got a note early this morning from Giants equipment director Joe Skiba that I thought you’d all like to see:
I just wanted to thank the Uni Watch fans out there for an incredible season. It means the world to me that fans out there pay attention to all the little details — and also important ones — that go into the equipment side of sports. Every day I read the web site and the blogs to learn what is being used and worn by athletes across the leagues. Hopefully I have made Giants fans out of you, and fans of mine as well (haha)! I hope you’ll share in the celebration of this tremendous win — you guys deserve it as well.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Remember those great old curling sweaters that I recently wrote about? Reader Graham Bakay reports that the vintage threads have been banned by the geniuses at the Alberta Curling Federation, who really need to get a ticket for the clue train. … Did you know that the Rams wore a jersey patch during home games in 1988? According to this page, the patch reads, “Drug use is life abuse” (nice find by Erik Little). … Good analysis here of how Nike botched its entry into the hockey market.