Chicago Bears legendary special teamer Devin Hester will reportedly be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday.
This will mark the third time Hester has been on the ballot, and his unique impact on the game has made his potential induction a highly contentious point among football fans.
Should Hester make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame like David Kaplan from ESPN 1000 suggests he will, it would be the 31st Chicago Bears player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which is more than any other team in the NFL.
Chicago Bears legend Devin Hester’s induction is not official, but inside sources say it’s a sure thing
David Kaplan of ESPN 1000 and “Dave” from the BFR Podcast say it’s a sure thing that Devin Hester will be getting inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Thursday.
Is Devin Hester a HOFer? @thekapman has the insider scoop
— BFR Podcast (@bfr_pod) February 6, 2024
Rarely do I partake in the source game but had to send this one out. Hester was my favorite player growing up. Should’ve been first ballot in my opinion. Obviously, will own it if I’m wrong but definitely trust my guys on this one.
— Dave (@dave_bfr) February 6, 2024
Hester has been on the ballot for the last three years, and many think he should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
put devin hester in the hall of fame immediately pic.twitter.com/D0igqntHNv
— Morale Supply Co.™ (@moralesupplyco) December 28, 2023
— Bears Nation (@BearsNationCHI) December 28, 2023
Devin Hester is a finalist for the 2024 HOF Class.
Nobody more deserving 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/adGnhi9NIN
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) December 28, 2023
Hester became a fan favorite because of the splashy and exciting nature of the plays he made. Despite easily being the greatest return man in the history of the league, many disagree with the idea that he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because he didn’t contribute much outside of special teams.
Chicago Bears return man Devin Hester made teams heavily alter their game plan
In one of the most iconic plays in Super Bowl History, Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to begin Super Bowl XLI against the Indianapolis Colts. This is a play that perfectly illustrates how Hester changed the game when he played.
It was the first opening kickoff return in Super Bowl history, and it was also the fastest score in Super Bowl History at the time.
Everyone was shocked to see the Colts kick it deep to Hester. Hester was so explosive that season, teams started to kick the ball away from him. The Colts did not kick Hester the ball for the rest of the game and ended up defeating the Bears. In an article from Windy City Gridiron, Colts head coach Tony Dungy explained his reasoning behind booting it Hester’s way.
“We had decided all week that we were not going to kick the ball to Devin Hester. That night, after debating, I thought ‘That’s really playing scared. We’re not going to do that.’ So the next morning I told the team when we were going to the game, ‘I hope we lose the toss, because if we do we’re going to kick it right down the middle to Hester and we’re going to pound him. And when they know that we’ve taken their best threat, they’re going to be finished.
“Thirteen seconds later he was in the endzone,” Dungy said.
After Hester returned two kickoffs in one game against the St. Louis Rams, teams really started to avoid him. This all came about during his rookie season, and teams around the league were unsure how to react to something they had never seen before.
Devin Hester has an NFL-record 20 return touchdowns, which includes every type of return. He has a multitude of NFL records that come as a part of all of these returns. According to an article from Sports Illustrated, these are all the records Hester holds:
- Most special teams touchdowns (20)
- Most non-offensive touchdowns (20)
- Most kickoff and punt return touchdowns (19)
- Most punt return touchdowns (14)
- Most punt return touchdowns in a season (4 in 2007)
- Tied for most return touchdowns in a single game (2 against St. Louis Rams in 2006)
- Most return touchdowns in a season (6 in 2007)
- Most rookie return touchdowns in a season (5 in 2006)
- Most non-offensive touchdowns in a season (6 in 2006 and 2007)
- Fastest score in Super Bowl history at the time (14 seconds, beaten by Seahawks safety in XLVIII)
- Fastest touchdown in Super Bowl history (14 seconds)
- First opening kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history (XLI)
Hester started his 12-year career in the NFL nearly two decades ago, and a lot of rules have changed since then. The NFL has worked to make kickoffs safer since Hester’s time in the NFL.
One new rule is the ability to fair catch, which is essentially the same as a touchback. Touchbacks themselves now put the offense on the 25-yard line, instead of the 20-yard line. In 2018, the NFL eliminated double-team blocks as well as a running start for the kicking team.
Another safety rule that was implemented is the elimination of blindside blocks. While this rule was not directly aimed at kickoffs, blindside blocks occurred most often on kickoffs, punt returns and interception/fumble returns.
The kickoff is seen as the most dangerous play in football, and there are more rule changes on the horizon. In an article from ESPN, the plan for the future of kickoffs was revealed.
“I remain optimistic that we can find creative solutions, whether it’s a version of the XFL or a reboot of this play,” Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL competition committee, told ESPN. “We can find variations that continue to evolve this play and keep this play in the game, but I think we have to be open to the idea that the answer can’t be, ‘Let’s just do it the way we’ve done it.’ That just isn’t a good answer when the data says otherwise.”
The future of the NFL could see the elimination of the kickoff as we know it. If that were the case, Hester’s records would stand the test of time.