Devin Hester, whose ridiculous returns remain unique in the history of the sport, was named Thursday as one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As many as five of the finalists will be voted by a panel Jan. 18 and unveiled Feb. 10 at the league’s NFL Honors awards ceremony. Each inductee must receive 80% of the vote.
Hester, who played for the Bears from 2006-13, retired in 2016 after having returned an NFL-record 20 balls — 14 punts, five kickoffs and one field-goal try — for touchdowns. A receiver by trade, he made four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. He was also one of two returners named to the NFL’s all-century team in 2019.
“When you see a great returner and you’re sitting and . . . you guys are all contemplating who should be returning the ball, who’s your first comparison to? What name do you go to?” special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor said earlier this month.
The answer: Hester.
“Therefore that answers the questions,” he said. “I’m going to leave it at that. That’s simple. Argument’s over.”
Hester is one of three players — along with former Texans receiver Andre Johnson and former Cowboys and Broncos edge rusher DeMarcus Ware — to make the Round of 15 in his first year of eligibility.
Edge rusher Jared Allen, who spent 2014 and part of 2015 with the Bears, is another modern-era finalist. He’s best known for his four seasons with the Chiefs and six with the Vikings.
Other candidates include; tackles Tony Boselli and Willie Anderson; cornerback/safety Ronde Barber; safety LeRoy Butler; receivers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne; linebackers Patrick Willis, Zach Thomas and Sam Mills; and defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Bryant Young.