Local girl in PPK finals

Tori Hansen first took notice of football when she saw her older brother playing.

Now her brother is the one watching, soon to see his sister perform on arguably the biggest stage for youth football.

Hansen, who turned 10 on Friday, will represent the Carolina Panthers in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick National Finals at the Georgia Dome on Saturday prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff between the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers.

"He's very excited for me," Tori Hansen said of her brother, 11-year-old Trey. "When I was about seven, I saw my brother playing football and thought it would be fun, so I decided to try it."

This year, the siblings from Raleigh were among approximately three million children who signed up for the Punt, Pass and Kick competition on the local level.

Hansen, competing in the age 8-9 girls category, won the local competition in Youngsville, N.C., then won the sectional competition in Rocky Mount, N.C. Her score there was among the top four in her age group in North and South Carolina, earning her the chance to compete in the Team Championship, hosted by the Panthers before their Dec. 12 game at Bank of America Stadium.

The top four scorers from Team Championship events held by each of the NFL's 32 teams advanced to the National Finals. Hansen had the third-best score to earn an all-expenses paid trip to Atlanta.

Her father, Dane, said he honestly wasn't surprised.

"I've always known that she's got something special," he said. "Physically, I know she can win it, but you only get to do it once. That's the hard part."

In the finals - just like at every other stage - Hansen will get one punt, one pass and one kick. The distances will be added together, but accuracy counts as well. If, for example, Hansen's pass travels 75 feet but it's 10 feet wide of center, her distance is recorded as 65 feet.

Hansen has an interesting method for dealing with the pressure.

"I think of everybody who's watching me as rubber chickens so that I'm not so nervous," she said.

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