By: Barry Barnes, Founder
After being pounded by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6, the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks looked to bounce back against the won’t-quit St. Louis Rams in Week 7. Sure, divisional matchups can go either way due to familiarity, no matter how good or bad the combatants are. The Rams got out to an early lead. However, the champs made a furious comeback, only to get spoiled by Rams punter, and the NFL Regional Combine’s own, John Hekker.
With 1:14 remaining in regulation, the Rams set up for a punt. During this period of the contest, the Seahawks were hot and thoughts of them receiving the ball, with manageable time left, probably would have led to another heartbreak for the Rams after losing to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6 when they were up by 14 points early in that showdown.
Hekker did all he could for the team, especially the defense, with his three booming punts as two went for 56 yards, received inside the 20, and one landing inside the 20 via fair catch.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher and special teams signal caller John Fassel needed something else from Hekker. So, they went into their bag of tricks and pulled out the All-Pro punter’s skills of yesteryear when he was a quarterback at Bothell High School and faked the punt to completed a 18-yard pass to running back Benny Cunningham to extend their possession and help seal the victory for the biggest upset of the week, 28-26.
“We practice every day. We run through that scenario every single week multiple times,” said Hekker. “I make that throw plenty of times in practice and Benny does a great job of catching the ball. It takes 11 guys doing their assignment for something like that to work.”
Apparently, Hekker is not a one trick pony. Hekker is four for five in pass attempts for his career, and he threw his first NFL touchdown during his rookie season in 2012, when he had three attempts.
For kicks, Hekker has a whopping 156.2 passer rating. Meanwhile, teammate and fellow NFL Regional Combine participate kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed four extra point attempts.
Also around the league….
Several NFL Regional Combine standouts were in action, and despite being on the losing end of some contests, they still won because they are living the dream.
On the contrary, Atlanta Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael probably didn’t dream of getting into a scruffle with Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. No one should want to piss Smith Sr. off. Ishmael finished the contest with six tackles (three solos), but linebacker Joplo Bartu led the Falcons in stops with 15 (six solos).
The Buffalo Bills enjoyed a comeback victory against the Minnesota Vikings 17-16, and Bills defensive tackle Stefan Charles got a tackle.
The Carolina Panthers are getting tight end Brandon Williams into the mix more as he received two passes for 22 yards against the Green Bay Packers, while cornerback Melvin White had his hands full with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his aerial attack in the 38-17 loss. White put up a good fight as he finished with three tackles.
In the Indianapolis Colts shutout affair against the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-0, linebacker Josh McNary registered a tackle.
Clearly, Hekker was the hero of Week 7, but his accomplishment stems far beyond a Rams’ team win – it was a victory for the NFL Regional Combine.
Can’t wait to see who will shine in Week 8 of the NFL.
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