Last week, we heard the news that former Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester announced his retirement. Now, the five year waiting period for a vote to potentially allow him to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame begins. Is he worthy of pro football’s highest honor?
(Photo Courtesy of the tenyardline.com)
Bears fans poured their hearts out last week when former Chicago Bear return specialist Devin Hester announced that he was going to retire. Hester, one of the most beloved figures in Chicago Bears’ history, told the world that he was done playing in the NFL in a tweet he sent out on Twitter. He thanked Bears’ fans and former head coach Lovie Smith for getting him into the league and getting him going.
Here is a little background on Hester. He played with the Bears from 2006 to 2013. He spent two more seasons with the Atlanta Falcons then was with the Baltimore Ravens for 12 games. After that Hester had a quick stint in Seattle. He spent this year waiting for someone to call him to come and play, but no one contacted him. Hester ended up officially announcing his retirement so we won’t be seeing him on a football field again.
Hester currently holds the record for kick return touchdowns (overall) which stands at 20. That includes five kickoff return touchdowns, 14 punt return touchdowns and one missed field goal returned for a score. Hester was a dangerous return specialist that could change the complexion of any game he played in instantaneously. Opposing coaches had to game plan around him because of the threat he posed. This meant that the Bears were often left with good field position because teams had to kick it short or out of bounds (on punts) to avoid kicking it to directly him.
Hester used to keep special teams coaches up at night thinking about how to avoid having him impact games in a big way. He changed the thinking of many a special teams coach.
Now, the argument begins as to whether or not Hester should be a hall of fame enshrine. Special teams guys have a hard time making it into the Hall. There aren’t any dedicated return specialist in the Hall right now. There are currently three kickers and one punter in the Hall of Fame but no special teams performers like Hester.
What it all comes down to is how many touches Hester had over the course of his career and what was he able to do with those touches. Granted, he didn’t have as many as Hall of Fame running backs like Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis or even the late Walter Payton (in no way am I comparing him to any of these players other than how many touches they had). So some may think it’s hard to put him in the Hall of Fame because of his lack of handling the ball.
But his impact on the game cannot be denied. As previously mentioned, teams would have to gameplan around him to try not to have him score on them. He was a threat to take it the distance every time he touched the ball. Hester made the punt and kickoff return in football must-see television. When you were going to the refrigerator to get a snack and Hester was on the return team could have missed out on greatness. He made people stick around and watch what he was going to do next.
Hester was one of the most revered players in the National Football League.
And he was electric.
Hester is going to have to get into the Hall of Fame based on the impact he had in the games he played along with the number of touchdowns he had. His touches will not get him into the Hall. Hester did not do much in the other capacity he served in, wide receiver. And when he played wide receiver, his abilities in the return game suffered. Hester was a one-trick pony and was only good at returning kickoffs and punts.
His lack of versatility may cost him a Hall of Fame spot.
This writer is all for having Hester in the Hall of Fame. I think it would be good for everyone if he were in with the other elite football players who have played the game. All of the members of the Hall had some a big impact on football. Whether it was winning a Super Bowl, rushing for a lot of yards or catching a lot of passes they all had an impact Hester’s impact just happened to be that he returned several kickoffs and punts for scores. That just might be enough to sway Hall of Fame voters when the time comes for him to be eligible.
Let’s pick this discussion back up when Hester is eligible in five years. By then the voters may be more welcoming towards allowing someone like him into the Hall of Fame.