The key to the Los Angeles Rams winning the Super Bowl might not be star defensive tackle Aaron Donald, All-Pro running back Todd Gurley or former No. 1 pick quarterback Jared Goff.
Nope, it could actually be the team’s punter, 28-year-old Johnny Hekker.
As a high-school quarterback, Hekker led his school (Bothell High) to a state championship appearance his senior season. But, Hekker’s arm wasn’t good enough to earn him a spot in the NFL so he got there with his leg instead.
His arm is still dangerous though as the Saints found out on Sunday when he completed a pass to cornerback Sam Shields for a first down during a fake punt by the Rams. The play led to LA’s first points of their eventual win.
— NFL France – firstdownfr.fr (@SecondDownFR) January 20, 2019
Hekker’s 20 pass attempts since 2012 (including playoffs) are the most of any non-quarterback during that span, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Johnny Hekker, a man of many fake punts for the @RamsNFL.
— ESPN (@espn) January 24, 2019
“He can make big-time plays,” said LA coach Sean McVay said of Hekker. “He can do a variety of different things with that athleticism, not exclusive to throwing it, but also being able to run.”
McVay’s counterpart, New England coach Bill Belichick, called Hekker “a weapon on the field” when speaking with the media on Thursday.
“He can change field position and he’s a good situational punter and obviously he’s very athletic,” Belichick said. “You have to respect his ability to handle the ball. I think the main thing when you sent your punt return team out there is you want to make sure you get the ball at the end of the play. That’s not always that difficult but with these guys it’s pretty challenging.”
Previously, Belichick said Hekker “looks like as good a player as I’ve ever seen at that position.”