Devin Hester, 33, was officially released by the Atlanta Falcons yesterday, thus likely ending a fantastic run from one of the best return men this league has ever seen.
I mean, even if he does find a new NFL home for 2016, his prime is far behind him. He played in just five games last season––his second season in a Falcons uniform. He missed much of the season due to a turf toe injury, being activated by the team for just the final five games, in which he was only used on special teams sparingly (eight punt returns, nine kick returns).
In 2014, he reeled in 38 balls for 504 yards and a pair of touchdowns on offense, and led the NFL in kick returns (45) and return yards (1,128).
But it was his eight-year tenure with the Chicago Bears that Hester will forever be remembered by.
The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro was never a huge weapon on offense (best season was 757 receiving yards), but was an absolute weapon and game-changer on special teams.
It all began during his collegiate career at the University of Miami:
And continued after being selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears:
And now, we’re here. In 2016. And Hester owns more than a handful of NFL records for his accomplishments on special teams:
14 punt return TDs (NFL record)
5 kick return TDs
1 missed FG return TD
Most combined special teams return TDs in a career//most non-offensive TDs: 20
Most kick-off and PR TDs: 19
Most PR TDs in a season: 4 (’07)
KR TDs in a game: 2
Return TDs in a season: 6
Return TDs in a rookie season: 5
Non-offensive TDs in a season: 6 (he did this twice)
Not to mention he also returned the opening kick-off of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts (as a rookie). Chicago lost that game, but it sure wasn’t because of Hester. It was the first time in Super Bowl history that it had ever been done.
We’ve seen a lot of exciting play-makers with the football in their hands, but not many of them will ever stack up to Hester and his NCAA/NFL accomplishments in the return game.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images