Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker has been the subject of some of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's heaviest praise over the years. It's gone back years, but really picked up in late November of 2016 prior to the Rams' regular-season visit to Foxborough.
Lacking in much positive hyperbole to say about Jeff Fisher's mightily-struggling outfit, Belichick unfurled an avalanche of praise for the 6-foot-5, lefty-kicking perennial Pro Bowler, resulting in a transcript that bordered on a length that may as well have rivaled a James Joyce epic:
"Hekker is a tremendous weapon," Belichick said at the time. "This guy looks like as good a player as I’ve ever seen at that position. He’s a tremendous weapon in his ability to punt the ball, punt it inside the 20, directional kick it, involved in fakes, can throw, can run, very athletic."
That colorful characterization continued last week, when Belichick repeatedly called Hekker a "weapon" in his Thursday media availability.
"He's a weapon on the field. 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. As I said, they’re all weapons. [Greg] Zuerlein’s a weapon, Hekker’s a weapon."
Hekker, a four-time First Team All-Pro, said he's flattered by the compliments when asked during Monday night's Super Bowl LIII Media Night at State Farm Arena.
Johnny Hekker has heard the praise from Belichick: “Definitely felt good...But I took it for what it was worth — a pregame comment.”— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) January 29, 2019
More than one comment, though. “Weapon” many times. Future tattoo?
“Yeah I’ll probably get ‘WEAPON’ across my abs. Sounds pretty good, for sure.” pic.twitter.com/FIrhTRy6jJ
"Whenever something nice comes out, my mom is for sure gonna text me and say, 'Hey, this person said this nice thing about you.' My family is really proud," Hekker told reporters. "It's a deal where I really, really appreciate his respect and acknowledgement of the position.
"I don't listen to too many Belichick press conferences, but to hear that is pretty humbling for sure."
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