WEST ORLANDO, Fla. – The moment Devin Hester retired, he traded in his cleats for a clipboard after watching his kids’ coaches struggle to grasp the game.
“Parents were like, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t know football, but we’ll volunteer when there’s no one else to volunteer’ type of people,” Hester told WGN’s Jarrett Payton. “So, I was like aahhhh! This is how you do it and this is how you do it — and after a wild two days — they were like, ‘we need you on the staff!’”
Hester has three sons — Devin Jr, Denali and Drayton — who goes by Dray, or another nickname he earned at an All-Star combine following three undefeated seasons in AAU flag football.
“This one kid that they had was pretty good that played in another league,” Hester said. “When they found out he was coming, it was one of the biggest, quote-on-quote, matches to see, and [Dray] put a clinic on for them.”
“After that, they gave him the nickname ‘Ankle Bully’ and [Dray] took that name and ran with it,” Hester added.
Dray’s left a lot of tacklers in his dust, winning MVP awards, a state title and even a national championship for his dad’s Anytime Jags.
“What’s your favorite part about snatching somebody’s ankles?” Payton asked.
“Just making them fall.”
Hester started teaching Dray how to read defenses a few years ago. It may seem like a lot for an 11 year old, but Ankle Bully has big plans.
“I want to go DI,” Dray said, about his future. “I want to make it to the NFL and go to the Hall of Fame.”
“Do you think your dad should be in the Hall of Fame?” Payton asked.
“Why do you think your dad should be in the Hall of Fame?”
“Cause he’s the best returner of all-time.”
Hester hopes to hear from the Hall of Fame come January.
He’s been a finalist twice, but hasn’t gotten the call from Canton, despite an unprecedented resume of 20 return touchdowns, including 14 off punts — both NFL records.
“I think there’s like only four or five who have made an all-decade team twice, but I’m one of them. Then you had the all-time Top 100 list come out, and I’m one of them,” Hester said. “So, I just knew, that no way, in my opinion in the world, that I wasn’t going to be first ballot, and to not get it, it really hurt.”
“It hurt to the point I was boo-hoo crying and I reached out to [the NFL Hall of Fame voter] and asked them, ‘What was your reasoning not letting me in as a first ballot?’
“They said, ‘you out of all people, this is the first time we had to deal with this.’ He said, ‘It’s a unique situation. We as voters, didn’t know how to vote in your situation. We started comparing the number of snaps that you had compared to everybody else’s snaps. So that’s the reason why you’re not in the hall of fame, because of the number of snaps you had.’
“That was the excuse,” Hester said.
For the game’s most explosive return man, it’s only a matter of time before he gets his gold jacket. Hester likened the achievement to the final touch on one of America’s most iconic desserts.
“It’s like getting a banana split without the cherry on top. It doesn’t look pretty without the cherry on top,” Hester said. “When you get that banana split, you want to get it with the cherry on top — and that’s what I’m waiting on — my cherry on top of my career.”
As for how he wants his legacy to be remembered?
“One of the most dangerous, feared players to ever play the game of football. A player that everyone knew changed games to the point where people would get up and get drinks, beer, use the bathroom, when kickoff and punt returns were coming up. But when they came to my game, everybody held it, and some people probably went in their pants trying to hold it while I was out there.”