PHOENIX – For a second-straight year, Devin Hester will have to wait to get his call from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The former Bears’ kick returner was not selected for induction after being picked as one of 15 finalists for the Class of 2023. The decision was on those players were announced at the NFL Honors at Symphony Hall in Phoenix on Thursday night.
Hester was in the same position for the Class of 2022, which was his first year of eligibility after a career where he became arguably the greatest kick returner in NFL history. Yet his exploits weren’t enough to get the votes necessary to be enshrined in Canton that year or in 2023.
Those who were selected to the Hall of Fame on Thursday are
- Ronde Barber
- Darrelle Revis
- Joe Thomas
- Zach Thomas
- DeMarcus Ware
- Don Coryell (coach/contributor)
- Chuck Howley (senior)
- Joe Klecko (senior)
- Ken Riley (senior)
A second round pick of the Bears in the 2006 NFL Draft, Hester is one of the most electrifying players in the history of the franchise. He finished his NFL career with 20 total regular season return touchdowns, an NFL record, and had one kickoff return for a score in the postseason.
That’s easily the most memorable moment of his career as he ran back the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI against the Colts for a touchdown at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on February 4, 2007. So far, Hester remains the only returner to do so in the 56 editions of the big game to pull that off.
He would finish with an NFL record 14 punt return touchdowns in the regular season, five kick return scores, along with a missed field goal returned for a score against the Giants in 2006.
Including the Super Bowl, he had three punt return and three kickoff scores in his rookie season then followed that up with four punt and two kickoff return touchdowns in 2007.
Held without a return score the next two seasons, Hester had an NFL-high three touchdowns on punts in 2010 as the Bears won the NFC North title. He’d have two more punt return touchdowns along with a kickoff score in 2011 with his last in Chicago coming in 2013.
In 2014, Hester joined the Falcons and had the final punt return touchdown of his career on September 18, 2014 against the Buccaneers in Atlanta. That gave him the NFL’s all-time return scores record which was previously held by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.
Hester remained in Atlanta for the 2015 season before spending his final year in the NFL with the Seahawks and the Ravens. On December 12, 2017, Hester officially retired with the Bears as he signed a one-day contract with the franchise alongside former teammate Matt Forte.