Hekker, a former Bothell High standout, drew the ire of the Seahawks’ defensive linemen Sunday after shoving Avril to the ground on a previous punt.
The hair on Johnny Hekker’s head had yet to dry from his postgame shower when a teammate propped a cellphone in front of his face to show him the video.
For the first time, Hekker watched the 25-second highlight that had gone viral on all forms of social media Sunday.
Hekker, the St. Louis Rams’ Pro Bowl punter and former Bothell High School standout, went from to smiling to chuckling to full-out laughing.
He could only shake his head as he saw himself flinch in fear when facing at a screaming and charging Cliff Avril and then falling into a defenseless fetal position when Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett made a move like he was going to hit him.
But Hekker likely won’t be the only one laughing at his exploits following the Rams’ surprising 23-17 victory at CenturyLink Field.
Most of his teammates and on-field staff had yet to see his brief foray into physicality. Hekker was all but certain it will be well-discussed subject.
“Probably a ton,” he said. “I’m waiting for it. I’m sure I’m going to hear it on the plane when we are flying home.”
Given the nature of football and the locker-room culture, Hekker will be subjected to seeing video over and over as teammates revel in his embarrassment.
“That’s just the nature of it,” he said. “I love these guys. I’m not sure they’d be razzing me if we lost. But since we won, I’m sure they’ve got a lot of crap to give me.”
How did Hekker draw the ire of Avril and Bennett?
Well, that was his own doing.
Moments after booming his second punt of the game, Hekker jogged downfield, watching the Seahawks’ return unfold. Along the way, he made the mistake of giving Avril a nice, hard shove, knocking the defensive end to the ground.
It drew a 15-yard personal-foul penalty — one not often associated with punters.
“It’s my first personal-foul penalty, and it should be my last,” Hekker said.
But beyond the 15 yards, there were other repercussions — specifically an angry Avril.
“I’m jogging down the field and somebody comes and hits me in the back,” Avril said. “It happened to be the doggone punter. But it is what it is.”
But being leveled by the punter?
“It was uncalled for, for sure,” Avril said. “Especially coming from a punter. You don’t expect that from a punter.”
Hekker later apologized to Avril on the field.
“It was a stupid play on my part,” Hekker said. “You don’t poke a bear.”
Bennett decided to join the fray and protect his teammate, so Hekker essentially had poked two bears.
“To me, he’s just a coward,” Bennett said.
So on the next punt, Avril and Bennett got their revenge. As the ball left Hekker’s foot, Avril came sprinting at him and lunged as if he was going to level him. Hekker turned with a flinch and made a spin/duck move to avoid a major hit that never came. A few seconds later, Bennett came sprinting at Hekker with the intent to punish. Hekker reflexively fell to the ground to avoid the contact and Bennett had to settle for yelling at him instead.
“Yeah, he was scared,” Bennett said. “He squealed like a little girl.”
It probably wasn’t the proudest 25 seconds of Hekker’s life. But self-preservation is instinctual.
“It was a bonehead play,” Hekker said. “I had to deal with the consequences, and I don’t know if I did that too well. I was just trying not to get my stuff rocked. That’s football. That’s what happens when you hit a guy like that. I’m not happy with what I did. I’m definitely not going to do that in the future.”
In front of family and friends — many still Seahawks fans — Hekker had six punts for a total of 240 yards. He also got to celebrate Christmas at his home Saturday.
“It’s still special to get to play in front of people you know and have your family come to the game,” he said. “I had 20 tickets I bought for the game. They were super-excited. And it’s always good to come back to Seattle.”