GREEN BAY — If Corey Bojorquez is half as good at punting as he is at storytelling, the Green Bay Packers are going to like their new punter. The 24-year-old regaled his audience with all kinds of interesting tales on Monday afternoon.
About how he found out he was being traded from the Los Angeles Rams to the Packers last week. About his circuitous route to the NFL. About punting left-footed, but being right-handed in everything else he does. About being an ordained minister (who needs to renew his license so he can officiate his sister’s wedding).
But there were two stories in particular he told that provided a window into his not-easily-intimidated approach to football and life. One was about his decision to join the Rams in the first place — despite the presence of one of the NFL’s best punters of the last 20 years. More on that one in a moment.
The story that ended Bojorquez’s 18-minute Q&A session was about the last time he’d been to Lambeau Field as a rookie with the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 30, 2018.
On that day, Bojorquez was the Bills’ most productive player — when you lose 22-0 not many other guys are doing their jobs all that well — as he punted eight times, averaging 43.5 gross yards and 41.0 net yards with four punts landing inside the Packers’ 20-yard line. But it was what he did after the game that might’ve been more impressive, walking up to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the future Pro Football Hall of Famer was leaving the field.
“I asked him if I could get his jersey,” Bojorquez offered, smiling. “They were wearing the throwback ones. That was definitely a longshot.”
“And,” Bojorquez confessed, “I did not get one.”
Perhaps Bojorquez will revisit the request now that the two are teammates. And perhaps Rodgers will oblige, now that he knows who Bojorquez is.
Rodgers will definitely take a liking to Bojorquez when he hears about his competitiveness.
After not receiving a qualifying offer from the Bills as a restricted free agent in the spring despite leading the NFL in gross punting average (50.8 yards) in 2020, Bojorquez wasn’t sure where to go next. There was initially limited interest in him on the free agent market, and while a few teams eventually came calling, he opted to take an offer from the Rams, who already had Johnny Hekker, a four-time All-Pro and the NFL’s all-decade punter for the 2010s.
“Johnny’s one of the best punters to ever play,” Bojorquez said. “Trying to beat him for a job is dang near impossible.”
And yet, he chose the Rams instead of another team where he might’ve had a better shot at winning the job? And Hekker’s presence actually made the Rams more appealing?
“Johnny being there was a big factor in it, because I felt like I was looking for ways to up my game for next season. And with the amount of success he’s had, I figured at the very least if I go out there, I can learn a lot from him,” Bojorquez explained. “And I feel like I really did get to expand my game. I’ve got a couple different punts that I can do that I wasn’t really comfortable with before.”
Bojorquez did more than that. When Hekker tested positive for COVID-19, Bojorquez handled the preseason finale against Denver and was magnificent. He punted five times, averaged 55.4 yards (gross and net, as the Broncos didn’t have a return and Bojorquez didn’t kick a touchback) and had two punts downed at the 1-yard line, one of them being a 70-yarder.
Hekker, watching at home with his family while quarantined, knew he might be in trouble.
“I may have turned it off a little early, I’m not going to lie,” Hekker admitted, that he turned on Apple TV’s “Ted Lasso” instead.
Despite his challenger’s impressive showing, the Rams reworked Hekker’s contract and traded Bojorquez to Green Bay.
“Corey’s a well-established, dominant punter in this league. And I was really happy to work with him for the few months that we did and compete with him. I think it did nothing but make us better,” Hekker said. “When I saw his success, I was very happy for him. On the other hand, I saw a little bit of writing on the wall that the team might go with this guy, and I could be having to find a new home here pretty soon.
“To feel appreciated and wanted back here means a lot, especially with a talented guy like Corey, to get him traded to a place where he’s going to have a great impact in Green Bay. I wish him nothing but the best.”
Bojorquez entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots in 2018 after punting collegiately at New Mexico — though he started out committing to Sacramento State, then attended Cerritos College, then considered Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo (where he planned to major in engineering) before ending up at New Mexico.
He spent three years in Buffalo, punting 165 times and averaging 45.0 gross yards and 41.8 net yards per punt, including 50.8 gross yards and 44.0 net yards on 41 punts last season. The punter he’s replacing in Green Bay, JK Scott, punted 194 times in regular-season play the past three years, averaging 44.6 gross yards and 40.3 net yards per punt.
During the preseason, Bojorquez led the NFL with a 51.9-yard gross and net average on seven punts, as only one of his punts was returned — for zero yards. Scott, meanwhile, averaged 45.1 gross yards and 41.0 net yards on eight punts, leading Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst to make the trade with the Rams.
“(Rams GM) Les (Snead) and (coach) Sean (McVay) brought me in, explained that they were going keep Johnny as the punter for this year but said they were going to try to work a trade for me and get me somewhere I can play,” Bojorquez said. “And got a call from my agent a couple hours later and found out I was going to Green Bay. So things worked out pretty nice.
“Making it as a specialist is really tough. It’s not like most positions, where you’ve got two or three of them on a team. Usually, you have one punter, one kicker, one snapper — 32 jobs. ... It would be great to stay here long term, find a home.”
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