By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
Derek Howerton just wanted to compete against his buddies. But, what he eventually accomplished is far more exciting.
Howerton, 13, will represent the Eastern Oregon/Idaho region at the sectional NFL Gatorade Punt, Pass and Kick competition Sunday at Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.
Howerton earned the honor of competing at halftime of the Seattle Seahawks game with San Diego by defeating four other competitors at the regional competition in La Grande. If he can win his division Sunday, he will advance to competition at an NFL playoff game in January.
Its pretty cool, said Howerton, a seventh-grader at Baker Middle School. I didnt think Id ever get this far.
Howerton said the local competition in Baker City was the first time he had competed in the PPandamp;K event.
All my friends were trying it so I decided to try it too, he said.
After winning the local competition, Howerton waltzed through the regional competition with a total score of 388 feet, 4 inches (117-9 punting, 155-8 passing, and 114-7 kicking).
His total distance was 98 feet farther than the second-place finisher from Adams, and 128 feet farther than the third-place representative from Hermiston. In fact, Howertons mark in the boys 12-13-year-old division was 90 feet farther than the winner of the boys 14-15-year-old group.
Howerton, who played quarterback, linebacker, punter and kick returner on the Vikings seventh-grade football team, said the passing event is his strongest area.
He said football and baseball, in which he has earned all-star honors during the summer months, are his favorite sports.
Were really proud of him, said Howertons mom, Nicole.
His dad asked him what he thought about going to Seattle, and Derek told him he was just happy to have made it this far.
Howerton said the Seattle-San Diego game will be the first time he has seen an NFL game in person in some time.
Ive been to Seattle a couple of times to watch them play San Francisco, both times at the Kingdome, he said. But, thats been a while back.
To get to Seattle Howerton is raising money by raking leaves, or maybe now shoveling snow, for donations.
If anyone is interested in helping him earn expenses for the trip, call Howerton at 523-2563 or 856-4069.