Punters Get Paid Like People, Too

Posted Dec 5, 2014

Rams sign NFL’s completion percentage leader to six-year extension.

The Rams have signed Johnny Hekker to a six-year contract extension, keeping the punter in blue and gold through the 2020 season.

“He’s going to be our punter -- and passer -- for a long time,” head coach Jeff Fisher said on Friday.

“The guys upstairs did an amazing job of coming together with something that was agreeable for both sides, and I’m pumped to be a Ram for the next six years,” Hekker said.

“I’m not sure this is the kind of thing that really sinks in,” Hekker continued. “It’s just such a blessing to be considered for an extension, and to have the opportunity to stick with an organization for this long, and potentially be a Ram for nine years. That means a lot to me and my family, and everyone that’s supported me to this moment in my life.”

With the length of the deal, Hekker said he felt like the contract extension is a vote of confidence from the organization.

“I want to earn every cent in this contract, and I want to push through and maybe get another big one as a Ram,” Hekker said. “I just want to keep working every day, enjoy the heck out of this football team. And I’m so blessed to be around the guys that I have been to put me in this position, because I couldn’t have earned this contract by myself.”

Hekker emerged as one of the best punters in the league in 2013, when he set a new mark for the highest net punt average in NFL history, at 44.2 yards per punt. The mark bested Andy Lee’s 44.0 yards per punt, which he set on the 49ers in 2011.

Additionally, opponents averaged only 2.6 yards per return on Hekker’s punts, an NFL best. The punter had only four touchbacks on 78 punts, and had 19 punts downed inside the 20.

“Coach Fisher and [special teams coach John] Fassel have done an amazing job of keeping guys ready to make me look good,” Hekker said.

Hekker earned both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors for his impressive 2013.

The punter currently ranks No. 6 in net punt yards (41.4 yards per punt), and has the fourth-most punts downed inside the 20 (23) in 2014. He’s also No. 5 return average, as opponents have averaged 6.4 yards per punt return.

But Hekker’s abilities as a special teams ace extend up from his leg to his arm. Since coming into the league in 2012, Hekker is 5-of-6 passing on fake attempts. He completed a touchdown pass in his rookie year, and has converted two fake punts this season.

The first came on a key drive in the fourth quarter against Seattle in Week 7, when Hekker’s pass to Benny Cunningham deep in St. Louis territory helped clinch the game. The punter completed his second pass of 2014 against San Diego, buoying a late possession in the fourth quarter that saw the Rams cut the Chargers’ lead to three.

“During the evaluation process when we came in here, obviously he was a tremendous athlete. People were talking about how he dunks the basketball and all that,” Fisher said. “That’s the kind of guy that we want back there running the punt team for us. He’s got a great group of teammates around him. He’s got, really, a fine long snapper. And he’s got a lot of good years ahead of him.”

Hekker came to the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, where he was one of the best punters in program history. He racked up 52 punts of 50-plus yards in college, including 17 as a senior in 2011. That season, he also set Oregon State’s single-game record with a 52.5-yard average at Utah.

“I scratched and clawed for that first contract just to get in the league, just as I scratched and clawed in college to earn a scholarship,” Hekker said. “I’m not going to stop that train of thought. There’s still a lot of work to do to, I think, be worthy of this contract.”

“This is a big moment, but in no way does this deter me from still wanting to be the best punter, ever,” Hekker added. “I’ve got to really give this team its money’s worth.”