The Los Angeles Rams sit atop of the NFC West at 7-2, and although many praise the defense, Jared Goff and the rest of the offense, there is one player that is truly the MVP.
Punter Johnny Hekker is one of the most influential kickers in the NFL, a great teammate, a fan favorite and a humble player that doesn't give himself enough credit. Hekker is a three time Pro-Bowl player, coming off the best year of his young career that allowed him to be the highest paid position player.
In 2016, Hekker punted 43 times in the first eight games, 55 in final eight. He averaged over 47 yards per kick. This season, he has only 27 punts and is averaging 47 yards per kick.
Hekker has a unique vibe that connects him with not only his teammates, but Rams fans at games and various Rams community events around Los Angeles.
"I'm just really thankful for the fans and everybody that has stuck with me and supported me throughout the years," a smiling Hekker said. "A guy has some free time enough to interact with fans on twitter, just be a person in the community and show support. To get the notoriety is cool, but I'm just so thankful to my teammates for the production I've had on the field. My teammates are helping me get great production on Sundays. I'm just enjoying the process."
A man that is focused on his craft, was rewarded last September with a huge deal, as general manager Les Snead called Hekker the best punter the league has seen. Running back Todd Gurley refered to Hekker as "clutch," and said "when we need him, he's always there for us."
Hekker goes about his business, appreciative for the compliments, but remains locked in on his job at hand this season.
"I feel my career is young, and I think you have to put in over a decade of work to be considered one of the greats," Hekker explains. "There are a lot of guys around the league that have produced a ton that I look up to. I just do the best I can to enjoy the time with my teammates because those are the guys who help me. Punting is not an individual sport, you don't get attention if you're doing great, you're team has to be doing great also."
A visionary of how to execute the right punt, along with watching hours of film, enables Hekker to seek the right place to aim the ball on Sundays with his leg.
Hekker has been active as the holder for place-kicker Greg Zuerlein, who has made 26 of 27 field goals and leads the NFL with 100 points.
Side Note: Hekker is also a big Kanye West fan, though he admits, West needs to return to the "808s and Heartbreaks" album style of production and rap.
He has a important pre-game ritual, praying with his family for himself and his team. Through hard work, dedication, and being a man of faith, we could see Hekker and the Rams in the Super Bowl sooner than later.
The Rams face the Vikings (7-2) in Minnesota this Sunday at 10:05 a.m. PT.