NFL Hall of Fame: Devin Hester makes history as part of the 2024 class
Before this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced, there was nobody in the Hall of Fame like Devin Hester.
But there weren't many players in NFL history like Hester either.
Hester, arguably the greatest kick return in NFL history, is the first player to get into the Hall of Fame primarily as a kick returner. He is part of the class of 2024, which was announced Thursday night at NFL Honors.
The rest of the class was defensive end Dwight Freeney, receiver Andre Johnson, linebacker Randy Gradishar, linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive tackle Steve McMichael and defensive end Julius Peppers.
Other players like Deion Sanders and Tim Brown were great returners and are in the Hall of Fame, but they got in mostly for their work on offense or defense. Hester never really stood out as a cornerback or after he transitioned to wide receiver, but he was electric on kickoff and punt returns.
It's a historic moment and one that Hester is proud of.
"When you think about it, any position to be the first in the Hall of Fame is so incredible and so unreal," Hester told Yahoo Sports after he was announced as a Hall of Famer. "I'm blessed to be opening up doors to the rest of the guys who are knocking on the door and deserve to be in the Hall of Fame."
Hester, who spent eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears, owns NFL records for kick return touchdowns (19), punt return touchdowns (14) and total return touchdowns (20) counting punts, kickoffs, missed field goals, fumbles and interceptions. He was on the NFL's all-decade team of the 2000s.
Hester was amazing right away as a second-round draft pick in 2006. As a rookie he set an NFL single-season record with five kick return touchdowns and then capped that season by returning the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl for a touchdown. Hester broke his record in 2007 with six kick return touchdowns.
As great as Hester was as a returner, there was no precedent for a player like him getting into the Hall of Fame. He was a finalist in 2022 and 2023 but couldn't get enough votes to make it into the Hall. Hester is finally in, a unique player among the greats enshrined in Canton.
"Special teams does matter," Hester said. "To receive this, it opens up eyes to everybody, not only the committee to the Hall of Fame and the NFL, but to the special teams guys out there watching, it gives them hope that maybe we won't be overlooked, and now that Devin Hester is in there we do have a shot."
Here is the rest of the 2024 Hall of Fame class: