Johnny Hekker
refer to caption
Hekker with the Los Angeles Rams in 2016
No. 6 – Carolina Panthers
Position:Punter
Personal information
Born: (1990-02-08) February 8, 1990 (age 32)
Redmond, Washington
Height:6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Weight:241 lb (109 kg)
Career information
High school:Bothell (Bothell, Washington)
College:Oregon State (2008–2011)
Undrafted:2012
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
NFL records
  • Highest net average punting yards in a season: 44.23 (2013)[1]
  • Longest punt in a Super Bowl: 65 yards (LIII)
Career NFL statistics
Punts:727
Punting yards:33,951
Average punt:46.7
Longest punt:78
Inside 20:290
Player stats at NFL.com · PFR

John Robert "Johnny" Hekker[2] (born February 8, 1990) is an American football punter for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Oregon State and was signed by the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Hekker is a four-time First Team All-Pro and four-time Pro-Bowler. He also holds the NFL record for longest punt in Super Bowl history, with a 65-yarder that he delivered in Super Bowl LIII.

Early years

Hekker attended Bothell High School in Bothell, Washington, and graduated in 2008.[3] He was the starting quarterback and punter of the Cougars football team during his senior year, leading them to a State Championship game, which they lost. He also briefly played basketball for the school in his senior year.[4]

College career

Hekker played for the Oregon State Beavers football team while attending Oregon State University.[5] In 2008, Hekker was named the Sun Bowl Special Teams MVP after averaging 45 yards on 10 punts, including boots of 57 and 52 yards in the fourth quarter of a 3–0 win for the Beavers over the Pitt Panthers.[6] He was a four-year starter and finished his college career as one of Oregon State's most prolific punters. As a Beaver, he set a single-game school record with a 52.5 average (six punts for 315 yards) against the Utah Utes in 2011.[7]

Hekker ranked third-best in career-punt yardage in school history with a solid 41.3 yards average per punt.[8] In 2011, he earned College Football Performance Award Punter of the Week and was named to the Ray Guy Award Watch List – given annually to the nation's best punter. In 2009, he was semi-finalist for the Ray Guy Award and the Phil Steele All-Pac-10 Second Team. As a senior, Hekker recorded a total of 52 career punts over 50 yards, including 17 when he had six different games with at least one punt of 60+ yards.

Hekker earned Pac-12 Conference Honorable Mention with 87 career punts downed inside the 20-yard line in 2011.[clarification needed] He also had at least one punt of 50+ yards in every game but one in 2010.

Hekker had several memorable kicks as a Beaver. One was the second-longest punt in school history. The punt went for 74 yards in 2010 against USC.[9] Another was a negative-yardage punt when he shanked the ball for a loss of 4 yards.[10]

For three years, Hekker also worked as the holder on placekicks.

Professional career

St. Louis / Los Angeles Rams

2012 season: Rookie year

In 2012, Hekker was signed as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams.[11]

During Week 2, Hekker was nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week after recording three punts for 165 yards and a 48.7 net punt average, with the longest punt being 66 yards.[12] Two weeks later against the Seattle Seahawks, Hekker threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Danny Amendola on a fake field goal. He became the first Rams punter to throw a touchdown pass since the AFL-NFL merger.[13][14]

During Week 5 against the Arizona Cardinals, Hekker set a Rams franchise record with a gross punting average of 56.9 in one game, beating the old mark of 56.0 set by Donnie Jones on three other occasions. Hekker recorded seven punts for 398 yards in the game, placing three of his punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He had two punts of 60 plus yards.[15][16] In doing so, he stopped Patrick Peterson from returning a punt for a touchdown against St. Louis, as he did in both rivalry games last season. Hekker was again nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.

During Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers, Hekker converted on two fake punt passes for 40 yards, while having four punts with a 31-yard average and placing one of them inside the opponent's 20-yard line in a 24-24 tie.[17] The first of the two passes was an audible called by Hekker himself after gunner Rodney McLeod was left uncovered.[18] Hekker was again nominated for Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.[19]

Hekker finished his rookie season with 82 punts for 3,756 net yards for a 45.8 average.[20]

2013 season

On December 29, 2013, Hekker officially broke the single season record for net punt yards (44.2), previously held by Andy Lee (44) in 2006 for the San Francisco 49ers.[21] Hekker finished his second professional season with 78 punts for 3,609 net yards for a 46.27 average.[22]

2014 season

On October 19, 2014, Hekker threw a pass to running back Benny Cunningham on a fake punt with 1:14 left in a game against the Seattle Seahawks.[23][24]

On December 5, 2014, Hekker agreed to a six-year, $18 million contract extension with $9 million guaranteed. His deal is the largest contract ever given to a punter.[25] Hekker finished the 2014 season with 80 punts for 3,721 net yards for a 46.51 average.[26]

2015 season

On December 27, 2015, early in the second quarter of a game against the Seattle Seahawks, Hekker was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness for shoving Cliff Avril after a 45-yard punt. Later in the game, Hekker dropped to the ground when he thought Michael Bennett was going to hit him as retaliation. Bennett later said that Hekker acted "like a little girl" in a post game interview.[27][28]

In the 2015 season, Hekker again led the league in net punting average[29][30] and was named as an All-Pro by the Associated Press for the second time. He also led the league in punts and punting yards with 96 and 4,601, respectively.[31]

2016 season

In 2016, Hekker set NFL records for punts downed inside the 20 (51), had only one touchback, and broke his own record for net punting yardage (46.0). Some speculated his performance ranked as the greatest punting season ever.[32]

Hekker was named to his third Pro Bowl and his third First-team All-Pro.[33] Hekker finished the 2016 season with 98 punts for a league-leading 4,680 net yards for a 47.76 average.[34]

2017 season

On September 11, 2017, Hekker signed a two-year contract extension with the Rams through the 2022 season.[35]

During Week 2 against the Washington Redskins, Hekker recorded a 28-yard pass to Josh Reynolds on a successful fake punt.[36] On December 19, 2017, he was named to his fourth Pro Bowl.[37]

Hekker finished the 2017 season with 65 punts for 3,113 net yards for a 47.89 average.[38] The Rams finished the season atop the NFC West with an 11–5 record and made the playoffs as the #3-seed.[39] In his playoff debut, Hekker had five punts for 218 net yards for a 43.6 average in the 26–13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the Wild Card Round.[40]

2018 season: First Super Bowl appearance

During Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, Hekker (normally the holder) had to take placekicking duties when placekicker Greg Zuerlein was injured. He converted an extra point and a field goal in the 34–0 shoutout victory.[41][42] During a Week 9 45-35 road loss the New Orleans Saints, Hekker ran three yards on a fake field goal attempt, but was ruled a yard short of the first down marker.[43]

During the season, Hekker also completed two of four pass attempts for 19 yards on fake punt attempts, with both completions leading to first downs for the Rams. In 2018, he punted a career-low 43 times for 1,992 yards (46.3 average), and only once punted more than four times in any game due to the Rams' prolific offense. Hekker missed Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro honors for the first time since 2014.[44]

In the playoffs, the Rams defeated both the Dallas Cowboys in the Divisional Round and New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game. In the NFC Championship Game against the Saints with Rams down 13–0 early in the second quarter, Hekker ran a fake punt and threw a 12-yard pass to Sam Shields to get a first down and put the Rams in position to get their first points of the game.[45] Playing against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, he set a Super Bowl record with a 65-yard punt, breaking the record set by the Patriots' Ryan Allen, whom Hekker competed with at Oregon State.[46] The Rams went on to lose the Super Bowl 13–3 as Hekker punted nine times for 417 yards.[47][48]

2019 season

During Week 10 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hekker threw a pass on a fake punt that was intercepted by running back Trey Edmunds in the 17–12 road loss.[49] For the season, he averaged more than 47 yards per kick for the fourth time in his career.[50]

2020 season

During Week 7 against the Chicago Bears, Hekker punted five times and each one was downed at or inside the opposing 10-yard line. He averaged 44.2 yards per punt with a long of 63 in the Rams' 24–10 victory on Monday Night Football, earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the fourth time in his career.[51] The following day, Hekker was also honored as NFC Special Teams Player of the Month, the third time he had been so honored.[52]

2021 season: Super Bowl championship

In 2021, Hekker totaled 51 punts for 2,252 yards, with 23 of 51 punts being downed inside the opponent's own 20-yard line. In their opening playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, Hekker planted all five of his punts inside the opposing 20-yard line, earning him praise from quarterback Matthew Stafford, who said Hekker's punting played crucial role in the Rams 34-11 victory.[53] He won Super Bowl LVI when the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 23-20 and punted six times for 261 yards in the game.

On March 16, 2022, Hekker was released by the Rams.[54]

Carolina Panthers

On March 18, 2022, Hekker signed a three-year, $7.6 million contract with the Carolina Panthers.[55]

NFL career statistics

Legend
Won the Super Bowl
Led the league
Bold Career high

Regular season

Year Team GP Punting Passing
Punts Yds Lng Blk Avg Cmp Att Yds TD Int
2012 STL 16 82 3,756 68 0 45.8 3 3 42 1 0
2013 STL 16 78 3,609 64 0 46.3 0 1 0 0 0
2014 STL 16 80 3,721 61 1 46.5 2 2 37 0 0
2015 STL 16 96 4,601 68 0 47.9 1 4 20 0 0
2016 LAR 16 98 4,680 78 0 47.8 1 2 4 0 0
2017 LAR 16 65 3,113 70 0 47.9 2 3 34 0 0
2018 LAR 16 43 1,992 68 0 46.3 2 4 19 0 0
2019 LAR 16 66 3,128 71 1 47.4 2 3 28 0 1
2020 LAR 16 68 3,099 63 1 45.6
2021 LAR 17 51 2,252 59 0 44.2 1 1 2 0 0
Career[56] 161 727 33,951 78 3 46.7 14 23 186 1 1

Postseason

Year Team GP Punting Passing
Punts Yds Lng Blk Avg Cmp Att Yds TD Int
2017 LAR 1 5 218 66 0 43.6
2018 LAR 3 14 629 65 0 44.9 1 1 12 0 0
2020 LAR 2 11 519 64 0 47.2
2021 LAR 4 16 712 58 0 44.5
Career[56] 10 46 2,078 66 0 45.2 1 1 12 0 0

Awards

NFL records

Super Bowl records

Media appearances

Hekker was the main athlete featured in a 2013 Dude Perfect YouTube video titled "NFL Kicking Edition | Dude Perfect" along with Rams teammates Greg Zuerlein and Jake McQuaide.[58]

For Season 2 of the Netflix cooking show Nailed It, Hekker was a guest judge.[59]

Personal life

Hekker is a Christian.[60][61] He and his wife, Makayla, have two children together.[62][63]

References

  1. ^ Among qualified players
  2. ^ "Johnny Hekker Stats". Pro Football Reference. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  3. ^ Wyrwich, Tom (November 30, 2007). "4A Football – A team and a QB grow in Bothell". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  4. ^ "Johnny Hekker's High School Basketball Stats". MaxPreps.com. Retrieved May 16, 2019.
  5. ^ "Johnny Hekker College Stats". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  6. ^ "Sun Bowl – Pitt vs Oregon State Box Score, December 31, 2008". College Football at Sports-Reference.com. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
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  10. ^ GideeshFilms (September 10, 2011). "Negative yard punt by Oregon state vs Wisconsin". Retrieved September 14, 2017 – via YouTube.
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