ATLANTA — What are the odds that a pair of freshman punters, who walked on together at Oregon State, would both wind up in the same Super Bowl?
More likely, it turns out, than any chance you'll get Johnny Hekker or Ryan Allen to engage in a war of words over the great Corvallis, Oregon, punting debate of 2008-2009 … which, shockingly, never really materialized.
"Wasn't much of a controversy," Allen, the New England Patriots punter since 2013, told USA TODAY Sports with complete sincerity — and a total refusal to feed even a faux Super Bowl squabble.
"Long story short, as we were coming to Oregon State, he was told that we had a competition for the punter position, and I was told the same. … We ended up becoming good buddies, and we still are today. There was never any spite or hate coming from either end. We were pretty close throughout our entire time there together."
That's still true.
Hekker, a four-time all-pro for the Los Angeles Rams who's widely regarded as the NFL's best punter, revealed he and Allen met up Tuesday for coffee and memories.
"We definitely reminisced a bit. Who would have thought both of us?" he mused. "We came in, we were so raw."
So raw, Allen said he and Hekker used to pore over YouTube highlights of other Pac-10 punters, including Cal's Bryan Anger and UCLA's Aaron Perez.
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Hekker also recalled the battle for the Beavers' punting job as being "wide open" for the lone available scholarship. However he and Allen both suggested that Hekker's background as a high school quarterback for Bothell (Wash.) High School gave him a leg up … figuratively.
"I really don't believe I was that much better of a punter than he was," Hekker told USA TODAY Sports. "Maybe just my athletic background, they trusted me handling the ball in certain situations.
"There would be days that Ryan would wipe the floor with me in practice, and I would get ticked off. … That competitive atmosphere we had, we both really wanted to get better. It was a deal where we knew that, if I was going to get the job, Ryan was going to make sure he made it a difficult decision."
Hekker got the job. And, with no opportunity to play after two seasons, Allen made the decision to transfer to Louisiana Tech.
"I knew my opportunities there were slim," Allen said with nary a hint of bitterness. "Worked out for the best for both of us."
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