The list of the best returners in NFL history has Devin Hester at or near the top and the Bears veteran thinks that his accomplishments on that front have him closing in on a spot on the list of the best players ever to play professional football.
Hester has returned 12 punts, five kickoffs and a missed field goal for touchdowns over the course of his career, which is the basis of his contention that he has built the foundation for a resume that could land him in the Hall of Fame when his career comes to an end. Kicker Jan Stenerud is the only player in the Hall solely because of his work on special teams, but Hester thinks a big year in 2013 will put him very close to a yellow blazer.
“I have one foot in right now,” Hester said, via Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Tribune. “If I take three or four back this year, it should be considered 80 percent chance of making it. But I am not really worried about it right now. I am really focused on this season. After this season, when all the stats add up, hopefully it won’t be a question.”
Hester’s playing for more than just his football legacy this year, however. He’s headed for free agency after this season and his next contract will come based solely on his work as a returner since the Bears will no longer be trying to turn Hester into a wide receiver. Hester said he’d like to retire as a Bear and “create enough esteem that there is no stress” about re-signing him at the end of the season.
There isn’t much history of kick returners remaining potent threats into their 30s, but, then, there haven’t been many kick returners like Hester. If Hester bucks that history, neither a new contract in Chicago nor putting a second foot in the Hall of Fame will be totally outlandish goals.