Chicago Bears HOF Candidate No. 1: Devin Hester
The Pro Football Hall of Fame, above else, serves to honor the game and its greatest players. This purpose cannot be fully served without Devin Hester who at this point has been snubbed.
The question of how specialists should be viewed in contrast to offensive and defensive players has been a subject of debate for years. It’s perfectly reasonable that the path to Canton is considerably harder for the players who star on special teams, as they play fewer snaps, making them less valuable.
However, it would be a great disservice to the players and the game of football itself if special teams players have their cases discarded. There should be exceptions, and there is no better exception than the man that many consider to be the greatest kick-returner of all time.
The traditional logic that a kick returner cannot impact the game as much as the 11 starting offensive and defensive players is challenged by Hester’s legendary rookie season, where he returned a total of five kicks for touchdowns in the regular season, and added another in the Super Bowl. On a team that came within a win of reaching the pinnacle of the sport, Hester may have been the most valuable individual player not named Brian Urlacher.
Over the years, the Bears relied heavily on Hester’s ability to score and flip the field to help the offense. Additionally, opposing teams’ tendency to kick away from Hester often resulted in shorter kicks, thus, better field position for the offense. His impact and success make him a quick study and a more than deserving candidate.
Verdict: There have been enough specialists to make it in over the years that Hester has a solid chance of getting in. Unfortunately, he may have to wait a couple of years before that happens.