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“Farewell to Hester”

When Devin Hester was drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft, many eye brows were raised.  Especially from die hard Chicago Bears fans like myself. Hester was listed as a “cornerback” but he made a name for himself as a special teams weapon.  Maybe I was naive to believe that the Bears really wanted him to play corner. This wasn’t a far fetched thought considering the Bears draft record during the Jerry Angelo era – it was hard to make sense of any actions the Bears took while he was general manager.

In a time when the Bears needed help on offense more than anything else, their answer to offense was Devin Hester.


His rookie campaign is one that will stand the test of time because of it’s uniqueness. Being used on the field for the sole purpose of returning kick offs and punts, Hester made up for the lack of offense the Bears had. In 2006 the Bears had a tenacious defense but their offense was limited with Rex Grossman under center. Sure Grossman would have his moments but it was no secret that “Sexy Rexy” was far from ever being a franchise quarterback. Grossman was so far from being a franchise quarterback that he was arguably the worst starting quarterback in the league at the time. The Bears for the most part played ball control offense, making the most of their durable running back Thomas Jones and knocking out long distance field goals courtesy of Robbie Gould. Hester had a total of six returns that year, one being a missed field goal attempt by the New York Giants which was returned for 108 yards. But if Hester wasn’t scoring the points himself, he was forcing teams to kick away from him – even if it was to be kicked out of bounds on kick offs, which guaranteed the Bears great field position. If Hester didn’t get to the end zone, he at least made it easier for his offense to score. Hester was such a threat on punt returns, he forced teams into deciding to kick it away from him at all costs, or just go for it on fourth down.

Hester’s immediate impact on the league was something that this sport rarely sees from a “specialist.” We’ve seen rookies at other positions make immediate impacts, but those are expected. The quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers etc — but to see a kick returner alter the thinking of coaches on the other sideline – that we haven’t seen.

The Bears tried to utilize Hester’s play-making ability by making him a wide receiver. In 2008 and 2007 Hester led the Bears in receiving yards mostly due to a being a part of one of the worst receiving corps in recent history and Hester himself never racked up more than 757 yards in a season. He struggled in route running and displayed many times over why he played cornerback in college and not wide receiver – he couldn’t catch.

Devin Hester scores again

Even in years when he couldn’t record a touchdown in the return game he was still a massive threat – for example in 2010, although never returning a kick for a touchdown, he averaged a ridiculous 35.6 yards a return. In the last two seasons, Hester hadn’t returned a punt or kick off for a touchdown. Instead what you saw a lot of was Hester running back wards trying too hard to make something happen that wasn’t there. He looked like a super hero stripped of his powers. Something that had come so easy to him, was now a struggle. Maybe he lost a step, maybe he was thinking too much. Whatever it was, he was not as effective as he had been in years passed and he was no longer “the threat” he once was. His importance even thinned down considering the Bears, after years of being inept, put together an offensive that can drive the field and score. Hester’s role had lessened and he just became a guy on a team, which is why the Chicago Bears have decided to part ways with the guy who indirectly (directly) made the NFL change the rules for kickoffs (moving the kickoff from the 30 yard line to now the 35 yard line).

Hester leaves the Bears needing one more special teams touchdown to be the all time record holder (currently Hester is tied with his mentor Deion Sanders at 19). Hester holds every Bears record in special teams yardage while also holding the NFL record for most punt returns in a career (13) and punt return touchdowns in a season (4). Hester has left his mark on the NFL, but even more intimately he’s left his mark on the Chicago Bears fans. Us fans held our breath, ready to exhale in extreme euphoria as soon as a kick off landed in his hands. We all waited for that first juke move or missed tackle – because we thought one break was all he needed. He added an excitement that very few fans experienced with their teams. For most fans a good kick return was a blessing – for us Bears fans – we knew it was just another day at the office for Hester.


But those days are long gone. At least in my eyes. Will he break the record? Quite possibly. Will it sting to see him do it in another jersey? Most definitely. Good memories won’t help you win games in the future. The Bears are at a crossroads of “winning now” but not with some familiar faces. No more Devin Hester. We bid farewell to Brian Urlacher last year – and only time will tell what happens with Charles “Peanut” Tillman. This is the right move for the Bears to make, and fans have to realize it.

I’m all for this move.  As mentioned before, the Bears have an offense now and Hester isn’t what he used to be anyway.  So with that, his value on this team is minimal at best.  Some fans have a problem separating themselves from the emotional ties they have with a player.  A player they never met.  A player that doesn’t even know they exist.  It’s all about the name on the front of the jersey, not the back.  Hester gave us his best years as a player in the NFL and we should be happy about that.

He had a hell of a run. A legendary run at that.

G.W. Gras
twitter @GeeSteelio

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