Posted on: February 21, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Chicago Tribune

Former Bears star Devin Hester deserves to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

To think Devin Hester isn’t the greatest NFL returner of all time is blasphemous. Yet his name was not on the list when the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 was announced on NFL honors night just before the Super Bowl. Hester should be in, but the Hall of Fame committee keeps moving the goalposts. 

Mohammed Jbara

Freelance Contributor

Nine candidates, including eight players and one coach/contributor, were enshrined into Canton. This is the second year in a row that Hester has been denied his entry into the Hall of Fame. 

Hester is considered to be in the “modern era pool” of NFL players when it comes to the committee picking the Hall of Fame class. Five years after the player announces his retirement, he’s put in the modern era pool for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The committee picks five players each year from the pool.

Over the years, many football fans, even players who are enshrined in Canton, have questioned the Hall of Fame committee’s criteria. The recurring theme we see with the selections over the years, however, is that if the player is the best at his position, there is no argument. He will be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This has not been the case for Hester.

Hester is acknowledged as the greatest return specialist in NFL history. Selected in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft out of the University of Miami, at first, he played as a defensive back for the Bears before changing his position to wide receiver. In his rookie campaign, he broke records like there was no tomorrow.

He had the most return touchdowns in a single season (6 TDS), most kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single game (2 TDs), and most non-offensive touchdowns in a season. He tied his record in the 2007 season (6 TDs). 

Hester’s record debunks the “criteria” the Hall of Fame committee uses to judge players. The players selected from the modern pool in the Hall of Fame class of 2023 have all had historic careers in the NFL absolutely. But, if one player is designated as “the best at playing their respected position,” they get enshrined regardless.

Photo by Getty Images

He is also the only player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl back for a touchdown, against the Indianapolis Colts.

In just two seasons, almost all records for returners had Hester’s name on them. After his punt return touchdown in the 2014 NFL season against the Buccaneers (unfortunately playing for the Atlanta Falcons), Hester broke the record for most returns for a touchdown in NFL history with 20 TDs.

After a small stint with the Seattle Seahawks, Hester signed a one-day contract with the Chicago Bears so he can retire as a Bear. With all the records broken, he was also a four-time pro bowler, won First Team All-Pro honors three times, was named into the 2010 All-Decade team, and in 2019, was named in the NFL All-100 team celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the NFL.

Again, his record fully debunks the “criteria” the Hall of Fame committee uses to judge players.

The committee has sort of forgotten there are three categories in football: offense, defense and special teams. Over the years of football’s rich history, we’ve seen times where, when the offense was struggling, the defense rose to the occasion, and vice versa. But we’ve rarely seen instances where, when the offense and defense were in need of a spark, the special teams provided them with that over the course of a full season and not just one game. 

There’s no doubt in my mind that Hester will get in eventually. But the fact that he didn’t get in this time only strengthens the argument that the criteria of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is vague and ambiguous.

For future instances, the Hall of Fame committee really needs to nail down what constitutes a “Hall of Famer.” Otherwise, we will see more cases like Hester pop up, depreciating the value of the honor of being enshrined.