When Hart High’s Kendall De La Vega first signed up for the NFL’s Punt, Pass & Kick competition two years ago, she didn’t think much of winning or losing.
Winning fourth place nationally last year and second place nationally this year in her age division on Saturday changed that.
“We found out about (PP&K) from a friend,” De La Vega, 15, said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, cool, I can do it for fun.’ We didn’t realize there was a lot more to it.”
De La Vega executed two punts, two passes and two kicks and earned scores based on distance and accuracy (in feet).
Her overall score was 295.1, short of the 341.7 first-place score.
After making it through the local and sectional competitions in the 14- and 15-year-old age group, De La Vega was ready to travel to Orlando, Florida, for the national event, which was held at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex.
The De La Vega family made a vacation of it, heading to Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. They went to the NFL Pro Bowl, too, courtesy of the NFL.
It was fun — just like the attitude that De La Vega keeps in PP&K competitions.
“I was just taking it as it was,” she said. “This is my last year to do it and if I went on, cool, if not, it was fun. But then I kept moving on and it was really real.”
As a kicker for the Hart junior varsity football team, she had plenty of preparation throughout the fall.
De La Vega also plays girls soccer and runs track for Hart. She conditions, lifts weights and practices with the football team just like with any other of her sports.
“Growing up I’d been really interested in football overall,” she said. “I did (flag football) and that was fun, and then I played soccer, so I was like you know what, might as well give it a try. Freshman year, just go out see how I like it and go from there.”
The kicker plans to finish out her high school career playing for Hart football, but is unsure if she’ll continue in college.
“It just depends really what’s going on at that moment,” said De La Vega. “If I’m injured or something like that, but I would say mostly high school. College (football) would be interesting. But right now it’s just focusing on… high school.”