By Shawn Muller–
Devin Hester etched his name into the NFL record books Monday night in the Bears 40-14 NFC North clinching beat down of the Minnesota Vikings.
Hester took a Chris Kluwe 3rd quarter punt 64 yards to the house for the 14th combined punt and kickoff return for a touchdown in his career, breaking the previous record of 13 set by Brian Mithcell, and tied Eric Metcalf’s career record of punt returns for a touchdowns at 10.
Hester’s accomplishments as a return man are absolutely astonishing up to this point in his career, but the question many people have right now is whether he is deserving of Hall of Fame consideration.
Normally, I would say that a player whose primary responsibility on a team is that of a return specialist has no right being mentioned in the same breath as the Hall of Fame…but Devin Hester is different. This man is re-writing the NFL special teams record books at a break-neck pace.
For this fact alone, the new special player to wear the number 23 in the city of Chicago is making a strong case for earning a bust of himself in those hallowed halls in Canton, Ohio whenever he decides to hang up the cleats.
Proof of Devin Hester’s potential hall of fame worthiness are in the numbers…and his numbers since joining the Bears in 2006, are simply ridiculous:
2 Time NFC Pro Bowler
2 Time NFL 1st Team All-Pro
8 Time NFC Player of the Week
Member of the 2000’s NFL All-Decade Team (2nd Team)
Most Punt Returns For a Touchdown in a Season (4)
Most combined Punt/Kickoff Returns For a Touchdown in a Season (6)
Most Non-Offensive Touchdowns in a Season (6)
270 Returns to Reach 14 TD’s (Mitchell needed 1070 to reach 13 TD’s)
All-Time Leader in Punt Returns for a Touchdown with 10 (Tied with Eric Metcalf)
All-Time Leader in Combined Punt/Kickoff Returns for a Touchdown (14)
Devin Hester has accomplished this laundry list of achievements in just under five full season in the NFL. The fact that he broke Mitchell’s all-time returns for a touchdown mark in 800 LESS attempts is simply amazing. If he can remain relatively healthy for the rest of his playing days (and assuming teams don‘t completely stop kicking to him), it is scary to think about how many touchdowns Hester can amass as a return specialist.
If the hall of fame is reserved strictly for game changers, regardless of position, then Devin Hester will end up deserving strong consideration for enshrinement. After all, Hester is just that…a game changer. He dominates his position the same way Barry Sanders, Dick Butkus, and Reggie White (to name a few) dominated theirs. I don’t care that Hester is not a running back. I don’t care that he has not made his mark on the NFL record books at the wide receiver position. The bottom line is that he is one of the few players in NFL history that, when the ball is in his hands, has the ability to take it to the house for six at any given moment.
Unfortunately for Hester though, it may not matter.
Right or wrong, there is this certain stigma surrounding players who make a name for themselves on special teams. Many people tend to think that these players simply aren’t good enough to be every-down players, and fairly or unfairly, do not deserve hall of fame consideration. Now, I understand that special teams may not be the sexiest aspect of a football game, but it is a vital part nonetheless. Remember…special teams is one of the three main phases of the game isn’t it? So why should players who excel in this phase be looked at any differently than those who excel on offense or defense?
Only time will tell for Devin Hester regarding the NFL Hall of Fame, but every time he crosses the goal line on a kick off return or punt return from here on out…the Hall of Fame may not be able to ignore his accomplishments.
Do you agree with Shawn? Post your comments below.
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.