Special teams are a part of football. They are a phase of the game. An important one at that. And no player has ever impacted that one phase as much as Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester.
I understand the dilemma facing HOF voters. Canton has always been about OFFENSE and DEFENSE. No punters. No kickers. No returners. No special teams.
And although analysts and broadcasters often refer to special teams as 1/3 of the game, in reality special teams plays account for less than 10% of all plays. And despite the reference to it being a phase of the game, and despite coaches harping on how important special teams are, when the game is analyzed at it’s end, we often define teams who win a game with a lot of field goals or a return touchdown as fluky. We look at the offensive stats and talk about how that team should have won because of their advantages in yards gained, and first downs, etc. We dismiss the team that set up a field goal with a long punt return and scored a touchdown on a kickoff return. And we do it every week.
I know you are thinking about it, and are now nodding your head. Clearly, there is a value to special teams. And to me, nobody has been more valuable in the return game, EVER, than Devin Hester.
He was a weapon in college, so much so he was drafted in the second round in spite of never having a true offensive or defensive position at Miami. Here is a taste of what made Chicago use a second round pick on the former Cane.
Obviously his value was recognized. I just believe it should be on a greater platform. Plus, there is not a bigger, stop everything you are doing and watch star in the NFL than Devin Hester. Every chance he gets people take notice. Trust me in watching games at a sports bar, when the Bears force a punt, the murmurs carry and everyone is fixated on #23 in Chicago…wow, just wrote that and realized that sounded familiar.
Devin Hester is a force of nature. He has 18 return touchdowns in his career. A record that Brian Mitchell took 13 years to set, Hester broke in 5. Beyond the actual touchdowns, the was he changes field position by forcing punters to kick it short or out-of-bounds, or by simply picking it up and going is difficult to measure, but is very apparent. He is so good, you must dedicate time to prepare for him. You treat him differently, you treat him like he is special, or he does these kinds of things to you.
I think Ray Guy is a Hall of Famer. I think Adam Vinatieri is a Hall of Famer. I think Devin Hester is a Hall of Famer.
The Hall of Fame means different things to different people. I get that. But I can’t understand that things like field position, field goals, and touchdowns are so very important to success in the game of football, yet we don’t recognize the best at those crafts with the highest honor available?
Devin Hester isn’t a star the way Wes Welker is, but he will probably go down as one of the most influential football players of his era, or any. He is a highlight film the same way other Hall of Fame stars were, and in some ways, more. He is the greatest of all-time, and that, in a nutshell, is what I expect to see represented in Canton.