When you think of some of the most dynamic kick/punt returners in NFL history, names like Deion Sanders, Dante Hall, Brian Mitchell, and Josh Cribs come to mind. However, there is one who stands among the rest: Devin “Anytime” Hester.
Devin Hester was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, playing mostly receiver at the time. Hester announced his commitment to the University of Miami early in 2002, following the Hurricanes second straight National Championship appearance.
In his first season with the Canes, Hester didn’t see much action on offense, as the team was stacked with talent once again. That’s when former Miami head coach Larry Coker decided to test Hester out on special teams and see what he could do with his rare speed.
In the second game of the season against Florida, Hester brought the opening kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown. His following sophomore season caught the eyes of the entire nation, returning three punts for touchdowns and totaling five special team touchdowns. During that year, Hester decided to switch from receiver to cornerback because his idol, Deion Sanders, played the secondary position throughout his career. Despite notching five interceptions with the Hurricanes, Hester made the move back to wide receiver as he entered the 2005 NFL Draft.
Early NFL Career
The Chicago Bears selected Devin Hester with pick No. 57. From there on, Hester was electric from the gate, returning three punts and two kickoffs his rookie year, including an opening kickoff touchdown in Super Bowl XLI (which was played in Miami).
The follow year, Hester broke an NFL record for most return touchdowns in a single season with six. From 2008 to 2009, Hester returned very few kicks and punts as former Bears coach Lovie Smith wanted him to be more than just a returner. In his first 4 seasons in the NFL, Hester garnered 12 receiving touchdowns, showing the league that he could dominate across all phases of the field.
By 2015, Devin Hester scored 20 special teams touchdowns, an NFL record. His last return touchdown to break Deion Sanders’ record came in a Thursday Night Football win against the Buccaneers, in which Sanders was ironically at the game as an analyst. Hester officially retired in 2018, playing for a total of four teams ( Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, and Seattle Seahawks). In his final game in the pros, which was a playoff game with Seattle in 2017, Hester returned three punts for more than 40+ yards. His last return went for 78 yards.
Is He A Hall of Famer?
Yes, 100%. Hester displayed why he is one of the most game-changing players of all time, doing so in ways that the common football era never saw before. When Hester’s career was all set and done, he accounted for 20 return touchdowns, 16 receiving touchdowns, 3,311 receiving yards, and 4 Pro Bowl apperances. Hester was also one of the very few players who made the All-Decade team twice (2000-2010 team). Devin “anytime” Hester’s impact on the special teams side of the field is deserving of a Hall of Fame ballot.