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A Family Tradition: 6th Grader Follows in Uncle’s Footsteps To Win Regionals

Caleb Morse, 11, of Brownsville, Vt., recently won the Northeast Regional NFL Punt, Pass and Kick contest at Gillette Stadium. Caleb's father Aaron, left, and uncle John Murphy, of Cornish, right, both played football for Windsor and Murphy also won the regional Punt, Pass and Kick in the 1960s. Friday, November 15, 2013.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Caleb Morse, 11, of Brownsville, Vt., recently won the Northeast Regional NFL Punt, Pass and Kick contest at Gillette Stadium. Caleb's father Aaron, left, and uncle John Murphy, of Cornish, right, both played football for Windsor and Murphy also won the regional Punt, Pass and Kick in the 1960s. Friday, November 15, 2013. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

Windsor — The Morse/Murphy family has a longstanding pedigree of outstanding athleticism in the Windsor area. The youngest of them just might be going the distance.

Brownsville sixth grader Caleb Morse is the family’s latest to achieve success in the NFL’s Punt, Pass & Kick competition, winning the Northeast Regional championship in the boys’ 10-11 age group on Oct. 27 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Morse’s great uncle, John Murphy, was a regional winner as a second grader in 1962, one year after the competition debuted.

On the same turf where the New England Patriots hosted the Miami Dolphins later that Sunday, Morse free-kicked the pigskin 75-feet, six-inches, threw it 58-7 and kicked it off a tee for a personal best of 82-7. The total distance of 216-8 bettered fellow sectional champions from around New England.

Morse was given a special championship football by Hall of Fame linebacker Andre Tippitt in an on-field ceremony at halftime. He’s now eligible for the National Punt, Pass & Kick championships, to be held during a playoff game in January. The top four from each age group advance, and Morse is the leader among two regional champions so far, leading the Buffalo Bills team champion by an aggregate 13 feet, 11 inches.

For his efforts, Morse and his dad, Aaron, even received end zone seats for the Patriots’ come-from-behind 27-17 win over Miami.

“I’ve been to (Gillette Stadium) a couple times for Patriots games, but this was by far the coolest experience,” Morse said while tossing around the football with his dad and uncle last week. “You look up at the stands and — Wow ! — they go up so high. It was really cool to be on the field.”

Murphy, a 1973 Windsor High graduate who went on to play at Fairmont (W.Va.) State University, won a PPK championship when he was a Windsor Elementary School second grader in 1962. Only in its second year of existence, the competition brought him as far as Essex High School, where he won the title after beating an Upper Valley field of peers at Hartford High.

“Back then, it was sponsored by the Ford Motor Company and the team we (were associated with) was the New York Giants,” Murphy recalled. “We didn’t get to go to (an NFL game) to do it. It’s been pretty neat, though, to watch Caleb do it now and be successful.”

Aaron Morse, a 1988 Windsor grad, also competed in PPK as a youth. “(Windsor recreation director) Harry Ladue would round everybody up and we’d do exactly that — punt, pass and kick — for an hour or so,” Aaron Morse recalled. “I never made it past Windsor. I got third place when I was in second grade, that was my best finish.”

The family’s athletic accolades reach further than PPK. Caleb’s aunt, Amber Morse, was a multi-sport standout who played field hockey at Dartmouth College. His uncle, Rhett, was a track star who competed at the University of Maine and his great grandfather, Jim Murphy, coached cross country, skiing and track at Windsor for 28 years. The track that surrounds the MacLeay-Royce football field at Windsor High is named the Murphy-Morse track in honor of his relatives.

“They would be proud of Caleb,” Aaron Morse said. “It was pretty neat, even for him to win the (Windsor PPK) with that track around the field.”

It’s also where Caleb has played his youth football games since the third grade. A 4-foot-11, 90-pound running back and linebacker, Morse scored five touchdowns this season for Windsor’s fifth/sixth grade team despite missing two games with an injury.

“It wasn’t our best season this year. We only had one win,” said Caleb. “But we tried our hardest.”

Morse will have more stiff competition to make Nationals — only the top four from each age group qualify, and last year’s boys 10-11 champion had a total distance of nearly 340 feet — but he’s hopeful.

“That’s my goal,” he said. “I want to go as far as I can.”

Morse was one of four area kids who won sectional championships and competed at Gillette. Windsor’s Katey Comstock (girls 14-15) and Wyatt Larson (boys 8-9) as well as Claremont’s Kiley Bundy (girls 8-9) were also in the field of 90 total athletes who qualified for Regionals.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.