O’Neill, 11, of Nutley, N.J., recently finished first in the Team Championships (Boys 10-11) while Golderman, 15, of Albany, N.Y., advanced from the Girls 14-15 division. The top four scorers in each age group from across the country qualified as national finalists.
O’Neill and Golderman, under the New York Giants banner, will compete separately within their age divisions at the Falcons’ team facility on Saturday, Jan. 12, with the top scorer in each group crowned national champion. All participants launch two punts, two passes and two kicks with scores based on distance and accuracy, and the best score from each activity is tabulated to determine the athlete’s total. The 40 young athletes advanced to the national finals through local, sectional and team championship competitions held throughout the NFL regular season.
Meet the Giants’ national finalists:
Name: Joshua O’Neill
Hometown: Nutley, N.J.
School: Washington School
Punt: 99’ 10” Pass: 115’ 9” Kick: 96’ 3”
Total (team championship): 311’ 10”
Finals competition: Broncos, Vikings, Falcons
O’Neill will be traveling south with his father, Michael, for his first national championship, but he has won a team title before. However, it came with the Jets two years ago before he changed allegiances.
“I used to be a Jets fan when I was younger,” O’Neill said the day before the trip to Atlanta. “But then at the age of like eight I crossed over and I’ve just been a huge Giants fan ever since.”
Why the switch?
“No doubt about,
With Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Troy Aikman once competing in the event – which is celebrating its 51st anniversary – O’Neill is well on his way. His total of nearly 312 feet at the team championship would have been good enough to beat half of the players from the next age group, while he was the only one in his division to hit at least 300.
“My dad and I, we actually did better than we expected,” O’Neill said. “We were only shooting for about 290 because we were hoping that would guarantee us a spot. But this was the best performance I’ve had in a long time.”
Name: Rebecca Golderman
Hometown: Albany, N.Y.
School: Guilderland High School
Punt: 110’ 5” Pass: 62’ 3” Kick: 128’ 10”
Total (team championship): 301’ 6”
Finals competition: Vikings, Eagles, Chargers
Making the trip with her father, Phil, Golderman is carrying on the family tradition in PP&K. Her older brother, Eric, competed at old Giants Stadium in the past, and her younger sister, Jamie, recently placed first in the sectional competition.
“When I was old enough to compete, my dad just brought me along with [Eric] and I tried it out,” Golderman said. “Ever since then, I’ve just been going back.
“The competition was in the Timex Performance Center this year, which was really helpful because of the conditions. Other years that I did it, we were out in Giants Stadium and MetLife Stadium on the field and it was really cold. So this year was better because the conditions were better. So I think that really helped me do well, and I guess I just got kind of lucky this year.”
Golderman is a three-sport varsity athlete at her high school and that includes soccer, which helped her notch the second-highest kick distance in her age group.
“My favorite [event] is probably the kick because I’m a soccer player,” she said. “So the punting and the kicking are both my favorites over the throw definitely, but probably the kick is my best.”
The rest of her skills came from backyard football with the family.
“I’ve played formally only on Thanksgiving where it’s two-hand touch and I’m the only girl there,” Golderman said. “Otherwise, that’s it. There aren’t really positions, but I’ve played quarterback before -- but not much – and wide receiver. It’s not very organized. I play all around, wherever my dad tells me to go.”
*A special on-field award presentation will air during the Atlanta Falcons-Seattle Seahawks NFC Divisional Playoff Sunday, Jan. 13 on FOX. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET.