On Thursday night at the annual NFL Honors award show, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the Class of 2024. That announcement touched off an annual tradition — debating who got in and why was snubbed — and among the names headed to Canton? Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester.
Over the course of his 11-year career, Hester slowly carved out a bigger role as a receiver for the Bears. During the 2009 season, he set career-high marks in receptions (57) and receiving yards (757), and the following season he caught a career-high four touchdown passes.
But he was most known for what he did as a kick returner. Over his NFL career, Hester returned five kickoffs for touchdowns, along with 14 punt return touchdowns. One of the most dynamic plays in Super Bowl History was his kickoff return for a touchdown to open Super Bowl XLI:
Following the announcement, the Bears put together a nine-minute highlight reel showcasing just some of the magical moments that Hester delivered over his career:
Regarding his touchdown to open Super Bowl XLI, in the days leading up to that game the Indianapolis Colts debated whether or not to even kick to Hester. Years later Tony Dungy admitted to Dan Patrick that the initial plan was not to kick to him, but the night before the game the coach thought that avoiding Hester was a decision to play scared.
So he told the team there was a new plan.
“That night after the meeting, I thought that was playing scared. So, the next morning as we’re going to the game, I told the team I hope we lose the toss because if we do, we’re going to kick it right down the middle to Hester. We’re going to pound him. Then, they know we’ve taken their best threat. They’re going to be finished.
“Thirteen seconds later he was in the end zone,” Dungy continued. “Everybody is looking at me saying, who’s that? I went back and said to them, I told you we’d have a storm.”
The Colts managed to overcome that initial play, to win Super Bowl XLI.
But now that play — and the player that delivered such a dynamic moment — is headed to Canton.