Devin Hester

Will Devin Hester be the next Bears legend to become a Hall of Famer?

Will Devin Hester be the next Bears legend to become a Hall of Famer?

Five of the Bears’ six living Hall of Famers were in attendance for this weekend’s Bears100 Celebration in Rosemont (only Brian Urlacher, who dropped out at the last second due to some self-reported digestive issues, was not present). Dick Butkus, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Mike Ditka, Gale Sayers and Mike Singletary brought with them to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center decades of history, reams of All-Pro honors and, of course, five distinguished gold jackets. 

And then there’s Devin Hester. He won’t be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame until 2022, but very well could become the seventh Bears player enshrined in Canton. 

That is, if he can buck a trend that’s existed ever since the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s doors opened in 1963: Special teamers rarely get in. Only three are Hall of Famers: Two kickers (Morten Andersen and Jan Stenerud) and one punter (Ray Guy). No player who’s primary talent was as a returner is a Hall of Fame. 

But consider Hester’s resume: More punt return touchdowns (14) than anyone in NFL history; 20 total non-offensive touchdowns, the most in NFL history; one of two players with five or more kick return and punt return touchdowns; the highest average yards per punt return among players with at least 300 punt returns in their career; and three first-team All-Pro seasons and four Pro Bowl appearances. Anyone who watched him play, too, know he passed the eye test. 

“We’re sitting here talking about the Bears and 100 years,” Hester said. “There were a lot of return players when you think about 100 years of football. To say that, at the end of my career, do I feel like I’m the best that ever did it when it comes to kickoff return, punt return? 

“Honestly, I do.”

It’s hard to argue with that. 

Hester received one of the loudest ovations from the packed crowd during Friday’s Bears100 opening ceremonies, dancing across the stage to “Crank Dat (Soulja Boy),” the song he used to vibe to before his electrifying kickoff returns at Soldier Field. 

Hester remains very much a beloved figure in Chicago, and is appreciative of the support he’s received for his Hall of Fame bid since retiring. 

“Every now and then I get blogs pop up on my phone about whether or not I’m Hall of Fame worthy,” Hester said. “You know, a lot of the blogs are more positive than negative. A lot of the writers feel as though the things I did on the field are Hall of Fame worthy for me.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find many people at the Bears100 Celebration this weekend who didn’t believe Hester deserved to go to Canton. We'll find out in a few years if that belief extends beyond the borders of Chicagoland, allowing the best return man in NFL history to take his place among the legends of the game. 

“For my career, I would say that would be the icing on the cake for me,” Hester said. “Every player that plays football wants to be one of the best to ever do it. You get into that Hall of Fame vote and you get to be in the Hall of Fame, you get to say you’re one of the best to ever play in the National Football League.”

Cordarrelle Patterson wants to use Bears connection to pick Devin Hester's brain

Cordarrelle Patterson wants to use Bears connection to pick Devin Hester's brain

That he had just signed with the team where Devin Hester became the greatest returner in NFL history wasn’t lost on Cordarrelle Patterson, arguably the best returner in the NFL today. 

Patterson has six kickoff return touchdowns in his six-year career with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots, two of which came against the Bears (2013 with Minnesota, 2018 with New England). Hester returned five kickoffs for touchdowns in his career, while totaling 14 punt returns scores and another off a missed field goal to give him a Hall of Fame-worthy 20 return touchdowns in his career. 

So Patterson, now that he’s with the Bears, wants to get ahold of Hester and pick his brain about a few things. 

“It really is an honor and a blessing to be here,” Patterson said. “And just to learn from Devin — I'm actually just in the process of trying to get his phone number to learn a lot f tips and stuff that he did while he was here. Hopefully I can get his phone number and he can write me back and give me a little tips that, how to be as great as he was when he was here.”

In a Players Tribune article from 2017, Patterson said Hester is his “favorite” kick returner he’s ever studied: “He’s amazing, so smooth and so fast. I just love watching him,” Patterson wrote. 

Patterson and Hester have shared a field before — and Hester probably took note of the then-rookie in 2013. Patterson returned the opening kick of a Week 2 Bears-Vikings game 105 yards for a touchdown, the first return score of his career. But just getting to be on the same field as Hester was important for Patterson then — and now, perhaps, he’ll get to have a few conversations with someone he said is one of the “gods” of the NFL. 

“I’ve been returning kicks for my whole life, you know, and getting to see him in person it was just, it was like a dream come true,” Pattersonsaid. “People don't really get to experience that on a regular (basis) and, and a guy like me, a return specialist looking up to Devin Hester and to play against him and seeing him in action, it was just amazing.”

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Plus Matt Forte and Devin Hester retire as members of the Bears. Is Devin Hester’s next stop in Canton? And will the franchise’s career passing leader get a day like this?