ST. LOUIS — “Stay classy, St. Louis. … I’m John Burgundy?”
St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker made his regular weekly appearance with Fox 2 News in the Morning on Tuesday — dubbed “Hang Time With Hekker” — but this time it came with a twist.
Hekker was behind the desk, along with co-anchors John Pertzborn and Randi Naughton, reading the previous day’s sports highlights Ron Burgundy-style.
“We said OK, can a sports guy be an anchor guy?” Naughton said. “So we were going to have him do the highlights for Monday Night Football and I’ll tell you what, the video didn’t roll. It happens all the time, but of all times, for this guy, the video didn’t roll. When the video malfunctions or doesn’t roll, you have to ad lib and tap dance through it and he did an amazing job. Better than some seasoned veterans, I swear.”
Hekker was supposed to read from the teleprompter along with the highlights from Seattle’s Monday Night Football win against New Orleans. But when the video of the highlights failed to play due to technical difficulties, the punter was forced to adjust on the fly.
“It went well,” Hekker said. “I wasn’t quite prepared for the film not to roll, but as they say the show keeps going so you have to kind of improvise and think on your feet and I just tried to do something entertaining, somewhat entertaining, for the people at home watching. I didn’t want to just sit there and panic and freak out.”
Hekker then successfully navigated his way through the news of USC hiring former Washington football coach Steve Sarkisian.
When he was done, Hekker threw his notes into the air and high-fived Pertzborn and then quoted Drake song lyrics.
“I think it made for great TV,” Naughton said. “I think it was fine. It was funny. It was cute. It looks like we did it on purpose, but we didn’t.”
Hekker was glad he got to have the experience and show his personality, which was highlighted last year by his performance in a Dude Perfect video featuring trick kicks and punts.
That video led to an appearance on Fox 2. Which then led to a weekly segment.
“He was funny. He was engaging. He was great,” Naughton said. “And I told my executive producer we have to have that guy on every week — he’s fantastic. If ever there was a football guy turned into a TV personality, it’s him. We named the segment ‘Hang Time with Hekker’ and we do something different with him every week.”
Hekker brings the funny every Tuesday.
“I like being able to represent the Rams in that social light and show people that we do more things and we’re more interesting than just football players,” he said. “We have other interests. So I think it’s fun to kind of show that side of the NFL athlete.”
On the field, Hekker is establishing himself as one of the better punters in the league in just his second season.
His net average of 44 yards per punt is the best in the NFL.
“He’s been great all season long,” Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein said. “Even last year, when he first came in, he just goes out and he works diligently every day and it’s cool to see the improvement and how mentally he’s changed and grown as well as the physical part of his game, which he just keeps getting better and better. What he puts out in practice every day is remarkable and I think he’s only going to keep getting better.”
So on and off the field, Hekker is getting the job done.
He finished his television appearance Tuesday by dropping an ode to Ron Burgundy with the line “Stay classy, St. Louis. I’m John Burgundy?”
“The first ever interview I did with them I finished with ‘Stay Classy, St. Louis,'” Hekker said. “I like Ron Burgundy. He’s an admirable anchor. That’s someone I kind of aspire to be. He’s comedic and he’s got a great mustache.”
You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter (@natelatsch) or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.