Home / College Football Live / How a two-handed football toss changed lives and championship week forever

How a two-handed football toss changed lives and championship week forever

Nov 29, 2018

  • Ryan McGeeESPN Senior Writer
    Close

    • Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com
    • 2-time Sports Emmy winner
    • 2010, 2014 NMPA Writer of the Year

Every great sporting event — actually, every great event period — has its breakthrough, watershed moment. That instantaneous dividing line between the way they used to do stuff and the way we do it now. Like Oct. 22, 1879, when Thomas Edison brought the first incandescent light bulb to life. Or Sept. 5, 1906, when St. Louis University quarterback Bradbury Robinson threw football’s first legal forward pass.

Then there is Dec. 4, 2010, when those first two moments came together and a light bulb revelation concerning a football toss forever changed a most-American of contests.

That’s when a 20-year-old woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan, walked onto the field of the Georgia Dome and won the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway by pumping seven out of 10 footballs into a giant replica soda can … and did so by launching those oblong spheres two-handed. Her football form wasn’t Tom Brady passing for paydirt. It was more like LeBron James finding a teammate on the break.

This weekend, for the 10th consecutive year, those ginormous Dr Pepper cans will once again stand in the end zones of the Power Five conference title games. A pair of combatants will stand at the 5-yard line, hoping to fill those cans with as many footballs as humanly possible before the 30-second clock expires. The winners will receive $100,000 scholarships, the latest checks cut by Dr Pepper (the grand prizes have varied in value from year to year), out of a grand total of $10 million and counting.

Thanks to that trailblazer from 2010, those winners will perhaps achieve their glory via nonconventional throwing mechanics. The internet will absolutely complain about that fact. And he or she who dared to offend the internet by winning that way will absolutely not care.

“What did you ask? Did I change football history?” Nikki Boon says with a laugh. “Is that what happened? OK, I’ll take that. Because maybe I also helped change some people’s lives that night. I know that night changed my life forever.”

Boon is on the phone from Nashville, Tennessee, where she is living out her dreams and fulfilling the promise that she made to America on national television that night in 2010 to change the world through music. You might have heard of Kane Brown, the country superstar whose sophomore album just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Boon is Brown’s day-to-day manager and is busy planning his upcoming tour.

But before we get to that, let’s go back to find out how we got to a halftime world of scholarships won and social media timelines set ablaze via shovel passes and shot-put throws.

The first edition of the Dr Pepper halftime throw took place during intermission of the 2008 ACC championship in Tampa, Florida, a matchup between Virginia Tech and Boston College that was also title-sponsored by the soft drink giant. Contestants had 30 seconds to throw 10 footballs into the replica can. Both New Jersey’s Geza Kenna III and Georgia’s Ronnie Botts went with conventional one-handed, over-the-shoulder throws. It wasn’t pretty. There was even a little heckling from the crowd. But Kenna defeated Botts 7-4, crying as he was mobbed by the mascots of the ACC.

About proncaa

Check Also

No. 11 Washington captures the Pac-12 Championship over No. 17 Utah

No. 11 Washington captures the Pac-12 Championship over No. 17 Utah. The Huskies will now play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2000.

No. 10 Washington holds on against No. 17 Utah to earn trip to Rose Bowl, PAC-12 crown

UW will head to Pasadena for the first time since 2000

Texas Tech hires Wells after success at alma mater Utah St

Texas Tech hires Wells after success at alma mater Utah St

No. 10 Washington beats No. 17 Utah 10-3 for Pac-12 title

No. 10 Washington beats No. 17 Utah 10-3 for Pac-12 title

Byron Murphy’s second interception of the game seals Pac-12 Championship for Washington

Byron Murphy's second interception of the game seals a 10-3 win for Washington over Utah in the Pac 12 Championship.