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Rams punter Johnny Hekker is nominated for Walter Payton award

Rams punter Johnny Hekker is nominated for Walter Payton award
All-Pro Johnny Hekker punts for the Rams during a game against the New York Jets on Nov. 13. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Rams punter Johnny Hekker was chosen as the team's nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, presented annually to an NFL player for civic leadership in his community.

"It's a huge honor," Hekker said Wednesday after practice. "As athletes, we're blessed with so much, to be recognized for your contributions outside football is pretty cool."

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Hekker, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, has been involved with several charitable organizations and events since the Rams returned to Los Angeles from St. Louis.

"I hope the people of L.A. just know that I love them and have their back and we appreciate their support so much," he said. "With what we do with football, I think it's important that we give back and support them with what we've been blessed with."

Hekker, 26, said his desire to help others was fostered by his upbringing. His father worked in a facility for people with developmental disabilities.

"We were always there helping, just doing whatever family events we could do there," Hekker said. "And growing up in church, we were taught to be a good steward of what you're given, your gifts and blessings.

"So to be able to give back is huge. That's what it's all about."

The winner of the Walter Payton award will be announced Feb. 4.

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