Rio Ferdinand admits it was a tough task to pick a winner of the Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition such were the quality and quantity of the poems submitted this year.
More than 25,000 primary school children in England and Wales were inspired to enter this year's competition, writing poems on the theme of diversity.
Ferdinand joined Waterstone's Children's Laureate Lauren Child, singer and songwriter Olly Murs and poet Joseph Coelho on the judging panel and all were impressed by what they read.
"We were sitting there saying, 'Are these kids really this age, writing this?'" Ferdinand, the former Manchester United defender, said.
"Some of the vocabulary, the language, the ideas and the way the poems took shape... It seemed more like university students!"
The judges had their work cut out deciding who would be the national winners.
"It's hard because you're disappointing a lot of people, more people than you're not disappointing," Ferdinand said.
"What I will say is congratulations to all the kids who took part because it has been a really difficult task going through all the entries and finding the winner.
"We could have picked so many."
The schoolchildren who have won will be revealed later this month.
PL Writing Stars is part of PL Primary Stars, which uses the appeal of the Premier League and professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills.