Devin Hester officially announced his NFL retirement on Tuesday after 11 years as the most feared return specialist in NFL history.
Hester who spent a majority of his career with the Bears and Falcons finished with 20 return touchdowns, the most in NFL history. His 14 punt return touchdowns is also an NFL record. Hester also returned a missed field goal for an 108-yard touchdown. He became just one of eight men to score a kick return touchdown in the Super Bowl.
It wasn't just what he did, but how he did it, and that matters. Hester was explosively and entertaining, sometimes taking a route well longer than the official length of his return touchdown. Hester had the combination of speed and quickness you only see once in a generation.
Devin Hester is worthy of a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why.
Hester is the greatest return specialist in NFL history. But Mitchell is the best return specialist in NFL history.
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There's a difference too, between greatest and best. Hester was feared. He was revered. But nobody did it better than Mitchell. Nobody has ever fielded more returns than Mitchell (1,070), and nobody has ever compiled more return yards (19,013) than he. Only Hester has more career return touchdowns than Mitchell (13).
While Hester was boom-or-bust on many of his returns, Mitchell always got yardage. He averaged at least 10 yards per punt return in nine seasons and led the NFL in 1994 with 14.1 yards per punt return. He played in 223 of 224 possible games. Nobody did it better.
Mitchell has still yet to get the call from Canton, Ohio for enshrinement. Mitchell was a nominee for the 2017 class, but did not receive enough votes. But with Hester now officially on the clock for enshrinement, one things become clear: A return specialist will head to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hester will get his name called, and when he does, it will be because of Mitchell. Nobody did it better than Mitchell. The omission of Mitchell has been a contentious point recently, and if the Hall of Fame has not been able to add Mitchell to their hallowed halls, what would it take?
Devin Hester. That's what.
Hester had to do things pro football world had never seen before. He had to do truly great things. Things that you couldn't do in the Madden video games.
If the Hall of Fame has been reluctant to add Mitchell, only a player like Hester would be able to budge them off their archaic line.
Make no mistake about it: Brian Mitchell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
So does Devin Hester, and when he makes it, he'll have B-Mitch to thank.