For five years, Bear River High School freshman Bridger Beus has competed in the National Football League's Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
Last Saturday, he lived out his dream in Atlanta as one-of-four finalists competing for the national title.
"I didn't think I would make it," Beus said. "I struggled a little at regionals in Denver, but when I found out I had gotten in, it was insane."
Coming from a family of Punt, Pass and Kick participants, Bridger's father Paul Beus says when they entered their oldest daughter Kapri years ago, he had no idea how far Punt, Pass and Kick would take them.
"Definitely not in the beginning," Paul Beus said. "We've been really fortunate that the kids really took it and ran with it."
Kapri, and Bridger's younger sister Brynlee have both reached regionals in Denver. It was after Kapri's first trip that Bridger thought he'd give it a shot. As quarterback, kicker and punter for the Bear River freshman squad, Paul and the rest of the Beus family were banking on him to get to nationals.
In its 51st season, Punt, Pass and Kick is the oldest NFL Youth Football program. Boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 15 compete in five separate age divisions (6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15) in punting, passing and place kicking.
The contest attracts an annual three million boys and girls who participate from July through January, and is one of the world's largest youth sports participation programs in the country. Utah winners advance to a sectional in Denver and from there only four contestants in each age group make it to the national stage.
Bridger went into Saturday's competition with some of the best numbers in the country but says he was a little off his game and ended with a score of 365.70, good enough for fourth place. While it was disappointing, Beus was more than happy with being counted as one of the best in the nation.
"At first when I saw my score I knew I could have done better," Bridger said. "Then I realized I was one of the top four in the country and I was fine with it."
Eighth-row tickets to the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks playoff game on Sunday also helped ease the pain.
"It was so insanely loud," he said of being in the Georgia Dome.
Bridger's mother, Terrie, said organizers of the contest were extremely accommodating. One of her favorite moments was seeing Bridger take the field at halftime.
"Watching Bridger go out and have his name announced was amazing," Terrie Beus said. "We just had so much fun."
Several other Utahns reached the finals this year, joining Bridger in Atlanta was Kaylee Carlson of North Logan, Mason Falslev of Benson and Jalissa Briggs of Orem.