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Putting It On The Line: Just one step from Super Bowl LVII, NFL playoffs move to NFC & AFC championship games with a youth movement at quarterback leading the way

With the field for the National Football League trimmed down to the final four battling for a berth to Super Bowl LVII, THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel selects winners for the NFC and AFC Championship games Sunday.

The NFC’s top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles (15-3) host the second-seeded San Francisco 49ers (15-4) at 2 p.m. Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, before the AFC’s top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs (15-3) play host the defending AFC champion and third-seeded Cincinnati Bengals (14-4) at 5:30 p.m. Sunday in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game.

Newcomers Jeff Boutwell, a Recreation Business Line Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Steve Cook, a long-time professional sports photographer, are additions to THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel this season joining Toney Rogers, a local business owner in the Heart of Texas, Don Nicholas, Field Representative for U.S. Congressman Roger Williams (TX-25), and The Sports Buzz’ Brett Voss return from last year.

Born and raised in Cameron, Boutwell is a longtime “resident” of Laguna Park and an unapologetic Aggie who played on Cameron’s 3A State Football Championship team before graduating in the Class of 86 at Texas A&M where he was a member of Company S-2 of the Corps of Cadets. Boutwell also played Aggie football as a member of the famous 12th Man Kickoff Team from 1984-86 as a part of two Southwest Conference Championship teams, playing in the 1986 Cotton Bowl against Auburn and Bo Jackson, as well as the 1987 Cotton Bowl against Ohio State with Chris Carter and Chris Spielman.

Boutwell has worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since 1986 where he started his career as a Park Ranger at Lake Whitney, and he has also served overseas supporting the U.S. Army in Iraq in 2007 and 2009 and again in Afghanistan in 2011.

During the Texas high school football season, Boutwell works as a crew chief in the Waco Chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Official, so he will not be selecting high school games due to a conflict of interest.

Also new to the pick’ems panel, Cook, who started dabbling in photography in 1969 with a Polaroid Swinger camera, joins the THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel this season. He began focusing on sports photography in 2001 when a friend asked him if he’d be willing to photograph the Crawford Pirates for a local newspaper. As a result, Cook’s been photographing the Pirates for 21 years.

Having work published in Texas Football magazineFOX SportsESPN and numerous newspapers, Cook covers Crawford for the school, and Baylor for Yahoo Sports. He has also covered Mary Hardin-Baylor and McLennan Community College.

Rogers, owner at Daddy T Entertainment and entertainment agent at Netex Productions, returns to the pick’ems panel for this second season and has served as an announcer for various high school to professional sporting events for several years, such as being the Voice of Crawford Lady Pirate Softball and announcing for UBU Bodybuilding Expos, while serving as Marketing Director for the Waco Tornado indoor football team and Marketing Director for North Texas Falcons Pro Football Team.

In addition to being involved in the entertainment industry for more than 40 years as a professional musician and a booking agent, Rogers has also been involved in several community organizations such as Clifton Park Board President, Legacy Park Board, Entertainment Director for Fallfest, CISD Advisory Board and a member of Lions Club.

Entering his third season on the THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick’ems panel, Nicholas grew up in North Dakota  in the north central part of the state about 20 miles from the Canadian border, attended high school in a small town of about 175 people, played football, ran track and was very active in FFA before graduating in a class of 14.

With bachelors degree in Ag Econ and Communications from North Dakota State and a MBA in Human Resources from the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, Nicholas joined the U.S. Army National Guard in 1971 and was activated to the Army in 1978, where he served through 2003. After working as a government contractor, Nicholas worked as the district director for Texas State Rep. Ralph Sheffield from Temple before being hired by Congressman Williams in 2014.

Last but certainly not least, Nicholas loves hunting, other outdoor activities, rodeo and North Dakota State football.

As the long-time veteran of pick’em panels, Voss established THE SPORTS BUZZ website in 2019 delivering award-winning sports coverage with daily posts in the Heart of Texas focusing on Class 3A, 2A and 1A high school athletics while including insights into college and professional sports.

With over 40 years of experience as a professional newspaper sports writer and columnist that includes a stint at the Dallas Morning News, Voss’ numerous awards include the Texas Press Association’s prestigious Fred Hartman Award for Excellence in Sports Writing presented the best sports writer in Texas in 2017.

At 11 years old, Voss knew exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up. When Roger “The Dodger” Staubach arrived and finally led his beloved Cowboys to their first Super Bowl championship in 1971, a family friend sent Brett a copy of the Dallas Morning News covering the Cowboy Super Bowl win. While reading Bob St John’s account of the game, Brett thought to himself, “Someone actually gets paid to do this as a job?”

Join us every Thursday throughout the 2022 football season as THE SPORTS BUZZ Gridiron Gurus pick their winners for a select group of the week’s high school games, your favorite college teams from the NCAA Div. I, Div. II and Div. III, as well as the state’s two NFL teams, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans.

Be sure to make your picks as well!

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