If you're planning on going to a Rams game this season, you might notice something different playing on the Coliseum's scoreboard. Rams all-pro punter Johnny Hekker won't just have his punts re-played on the big screen. He'll be starring in a new public service announcement with Mayor Eric Garcetti as LA's first Vision Zero Hero Ambassador.
It's part of a new partnership between LA's Department of Transportation, the Rams and insurance company State Farm that's working to educate football fans about how they can help the city eliminate traffic deaths by 2025. As part of Hekker's Vision Zero ambassadorship, each time he punts during a game, it will trigger a reminder to fans inside the stadium and also on Rams radio broadcasts to drive safely.
Take Two host A Martinez spoke to Hekker before he headed off to Dallas to play the Cowboys this weekend.
Hekker's decision to work with Vision Zero was inspired, at least in part, by former St. Louis Rams teammate Isaiah Pead losing part of a leg in a car crash last year:
Yeah, that's definitely something I thought of. We've all lost friends and family to accidents. Actually, a good friend of mine passed in a car crash just over a year and a half ago -- a punter at Michigan State. He was driving a little bit fast on a wet road and went off the side of the road and hit a tree. We've all been affected some way by traffic accidents or vehicular mishaps. Accidents happen, but the more we can be aware about dangerous situations we can avoid, the less likely they are to be fatal.
Hekker feels compelled to support teammates who protest during the national anthem:
I just felt something kind of in my heart, a couple weeks prior to that when people were yelling at Rob [Quinn] during the national anthem and telling him to put his hand down. Just all the backlash coming on these people expressing their freedom. It's a constitutional right, and to have people think less of a person for exercising that right just didn't sit right with me. As a white man, a man of privilege, I think it's important for us to stand in unity with people who are marginalized and not really given a fair hand in our society.
What Hekker would say to fans who don't support the players' protest:
I'd say to them, 'You know what? You're never going to agree with everything that everyone says and feels, but one beauty of living in this country is you don't have to. You may disagree, but you know what, we're all Americans. The more we have conversations to try to understand each other the better.'