Devin Hester’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame still has a strong chance of happening. That glory just won’t come this year.
In his first year of Hall eligibility, the Chicago Bears record returner was not voted to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, news became official Thursday night. His candidacy will push until 2023.
This year’s Hall of Fame class was officially announced Thursday during the NFL Honors extravaganza at the YouTube Theater in Los Angeles. The five modern-era players inducted were Tony Boselli, LeRoy Butler, the late Sam Mills, Richard Seymour and Bryant Young.
Young played at Bloom High School in Chicago Heights before becoming All-American at Notre Dame.
Additionally, senior contestant Cliff Branch, contributor/referee Art McNally, and coach Dick Vermeil were elected.
Hester, who played the first eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Bears, was one of 10 Hall finalists to burst his bubble. The others were Jared Allen, Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Willie Anderson, Ronde Barber, Zach Thomas.
Hester was open about the importance of a place in the Hall.
“To be honest, it would really mean the world to me to be in the Hall of Fame,” he told the Tribune in 2019. “It’s something I look forward to. I hope that I’ll get there. I’m praying to do it. It would be the icing on the cake of my career.”
This frosting, however, will have to wait at least another year.
Hester set an NFL record for career return touchdowns with 20, totaling 14 punt return scores and five kickoff return touchdowns while adding a missed goal return for 108 yards.
He burst onto the scene as a Bears rookie in 2006 with five return touchdowns during the regular season, including an 83-yard punt return score in the Bears’ legendary 24-23 comeback victory. against the Arizona Cardinals on “Monday Night.” Soccer.”
It was the Bears’ iconic victory in their most successful season of the 21st century, a championship campaign that ended with them facing the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in Miami Gardens, Florida. Hester opened that game with more fireworks, becoming the first — and still the only — player in Super Bowl history to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown. That score covered 92 yards and is considered one of the most iconic plays in franchise history.
As the Bears entered their 100th season in 2019, the Tribune ranked Hester’s Super Bowl return touchdown as the No. 7 moment in Bears history.
Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, who dared to kick Hester to start this Super Bowl, thinks Hester deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
“I’ve seen a lot of dangerous comebacks in my 30 years in the NFL,” Dungy told the Tribune in 2019. “But Devin was a guy you probably knew by week 5 of his rookie year how bad he was. was really special. And he was still able to do it year after year, over and over again. He was so dangerous. He’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime guys. And I always thought that if you’re the best at what you do, if you’re the dominant player in your position, you should be in the Hall of Fame.
Added former Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, whose Hall of Fame eligibility will begin in 2025: “Absolutely, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Without a doubt. He changed his game. Are you telling me he wasn’t as important to his team as anyone else who played in the league? … In my mind, the Hall of Fame is for guys who changed the league and did special things that other guys couldn’t. It’s that guy. One hundred percent. If I had a vote, I would vote it 100%.”
Hester, who was named the 19th greatest Bears player of all time by the Tribune in 2019, was a first-team All-Pro in 2006, 2007 and 2010 while earning second-team honors in 2011. He has averaged 11.7 yards per punt return in his career, which ranks as the fourth-best average in the Super Bowl era. He also set the Bears single-game record for kickoff return distance in Week 2 of 2013 with 249 yards.
While many debate the Hall of Fame nomination of players who were specialists, it’s also worth noting that Hester became an important part of the Bears offense, converting from cornerback to receiver and totaling 255 catches, 3,311 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career. .
Hester was named to the NFL All-Decade Team twice, for the 2000s and 2010s. He was also named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019.
Those familiar with the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process believe that Hester still has a very good chance of earning entry in the years to come. Current draft rules limit each Hall of Fame class to five modern-era players.
Hester’s status as one of 15 modern-era finalists in his first year of eligibility is a strong statement. He is set to appear on the list of about two dozen semi-finalists who will be released again next fall. And when that group is narrowed down again to 15 finalists in January, Hester’s case is set to reopen for formal discussion for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 49-member selection committee, which is made up of a media representative from the cities. from every NFL franchise plus 17 major selectors.
The Bears organization has 30 Hall of Famers — the most of any franchise — with Jimbo Covert, Ed Sprinkle and Brian Urlacher as the most recent inductees. Despite the disappointment of this year, Hester hopes to be part of this brotherhood soon.
After leaving Chicago in 2014, Hester played 21 games over two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and ended his career with a short stint with the Seattle Seahawks in 2016. In April 2018, he signed a one-year contract. day with the Bears to officially retire with the organization that drafted him in the second round in 2006.
“The most prolific returner in the history of the game is a bear,” team president George McCaskey said that day. “We’re very proud of that and we’re proud of Devin.”
Hester also expressed her pride while thanking so many of her Bears teammates who helped her rise.
“It was amazing to be part of a group of guys where every time I walked onto the pitch these guys were like, ‘Please follow me, I’m supporting you,'” Hester said. It is an honor and a privilege to be in this family.