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Fourth-grader to compete in NFL team championship

By Julie Garcia
Nov. 20, 2013 at 5:20 a.m.

Matthew Garcia, 9, will compete in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Team Championship competition Sunday at the Houston Texans game at Reliant Stadium.

Matthew Garcia, 9, will compete in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Team Championship competition Sunday at the Houston Texans game at Reliant Stadium.

Nine-year-old Matthew Garcia hopes to meet his favorite NFL player, Andre Johnson, in Houston on Sunday.

There's a good chance that the DeLeon Elementary student will meet the Houston Texans' wide receiver as Matthew has advanced to the Team Championships for the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition.

Matthew will travel to Houston on Saturday and Sunday, where he will have one shot to punt, pass and kick a football as far as possible from the end zone.

According to the NFL PPK website, scores are based on both distance and accuracy. The final score is his or her cumulative total for the three individual events.

Matthew won first place for the 8- to 9-year-old division when the Victoria Parks and Recreation department hosted a local competition at Riverside Park in September.

The bright-eyed fourth-grader said that before the competition started, he was nervous.

"His dad has been practicing with him since he could walk," mother Tina Garcia said. "He's a sports nut."

Garcia advanced with three other participants to the sectional competition in San Antonio on Oct. 12. His overall score was 205 points, and he was chosen to compete in Houston by the NFL.

The Garcia family found out only two weeks ago that he would be in the team championship.

Each of the 32 NFL teams have a team championship competition.

Finishing up his first season as a kicker for CYFL team Junior Titan Red, Garcia said he liked playing on the team.

He has been playing Little League baseball since he was 4 or 5 years old. He's a pitcher, and his father, Ernie Garcia, is a coach.

"He has a lot of natural ability," Ernie Garcia said. "I told him as long as he practices, he has a good future in sports."

Every participant in Sunday's competition receives two Texan tickets to the sold-out game against the Jacksonville Jaguars later that day.

Matthew is one of four boys to participate in his age bracket. There is also a separate girls 8-9 year old division.

Each participant will begin with a score of zero and again will have only one chance to kick, pass and punt.

The top boy scorer and the top girl scorer within each age bracket will be declared that team's NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Team Champion and will advance to the National Finals, which will be at a NFC/AFC playoff games in January.

The four first-place Team Champions from each of the boys' and girls' divisions of all NFL Team Champions are eligible for advancement, according to the website.

"You can't mess up on one throw or anything," Ernie Garcia said. "It's fortunate that he's thrown well and kicked well each time."

Besides sports (he also plays Upward basketball), Garcia enjoys math.

"I really like multiplication and addition but not subtraction and division," Matthew said.

Sunday's competition begins at 8 a.m. in an adjoining building to Reliant Stadium in downtown Houston.


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