The New York Jets didn’t make the NFL playoffs this season, but the team still has a shot at a national championship this weekend.
Sebastian Lippman, 8, of Plainview, will be representing the Jets in the finals of the NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition.
The second grader at Pasadena Elementary School in Plainview will be one of only 40 kids from across the country to compete on Saturday in Denver, where the Broncos will host the San Diego Chargers. The winners of each division will be invited onto the field after the third quarter of Sunday’s Broncos-Chargers Divisional playoff game, where they will receive commemorative gold footballs and have their names announced during the nationally televised broadcast.
“I’m already a winner,” said Sebastian, who is competing in the boys 6-7 division and recently celebrated a birthday. “So win or lose, I’m automatically going to be happy.”
Sebastian’s road to the national championship began in September, when he competed in a local contest held in Lido Beach. Although Sebastian had never played organized football before, his father, Lon Lippman, 37, said he thought his son would do “pretty good” in the competition. He plays soccer, basketball and travel baseball.
Each child was given two chances to kick, punt and pass a football as far as they could, with points awarded for accuracy and distance. Once the scores were tallied, Sebastian qualified for the sectionals in Oyster Bay in October. At that competition, he earned a spot in the New York Jets team championship with a score of 191 points, his personal best.
Sebastian described the team championship, which took place at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., before the Dec. 1 Jets game, as the best day of his life. Not only did he win his age division that day, but he also got to high-five Jets players as they entered the stadium.
Sebastian earned a spot in the national championship by finishing first among the 32 team champions in his division from across the country. The top four advance to the finals in each division.
On Saturday, he will take on kids representing the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Broncos. In the history of the program, which began in 1961, this is the first time New York has had someone compete for the national championship.
“We’ve never had a kid in the top four, much less No. 1,” said Don Whearty, a state chairperson for PPK, who handles the Jets and Giants teams. “This is pretty special for us.”
Whearty, also a Plainview native and a physical education teacher in the East Meadow School District, said the purpose of the program is to introduce kids to the fundamentals of football. He said some past PPK winners have gone on to have careers in the NFL, including Andy Reid, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Although Sebastian still plays other sports, he said he has been practicing his football skills five days a week with his dad to prepare for the competitions. Because of the program, he’s now considering hitting the gridiron when he gets older, but plans to avoid the pileups.
“I would like to be a kicker,” he said. “I don’t want to get tackled.”