Jimbo Covert waited 30 years for his Hall call, says Devin Hester won’t have to

Covert knows how frustrating it is to wait. In that sense, the franchise’s most recent Hall of Famer sympathizes with former Bears return great Devin Hester, who was not named one of the five modern-era inductees Thursday night.

SHARE Jimbo Covert waited 30 years for his Hall call, says Devin Hester won’t have to
Jimbo Covert receives his Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket in August.

Jimbo Covert receives his Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket in August.

Gene J. Puskar-Pool/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Jimbo Covert didn’t get voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until 30 years after he played his last game. And even then, he had to wait 18 months after he was named to the Hall’s centennial class. The former Bears left tackle finally got to attend the coronavirus-delayed ceremony in July.

Covert, then, knows how frustrating it is to wait for that Hall call. In that sense, the franchise’s most recent Hall of Famer sympathizes with former Bears return great Devin Hester, who was not named one of the five modern-era inductees Thursday night. Hester was in his first year of eligibility.

“He’s no doubt going to be a Hall of Famer,” Covert said Friday. “It’s just when. He should not be disappointed by that. He had a great career.

“I know that people talk about first-ballot Hall of Famers, but there’s no special distinction in the Hall of Fame between first-ballot guys and other guys. The jacket’s the same color.”

Hester was disappointed, nonetheless. Tweeting late Thursday night, he congratulated the five modern-era choices — tackle Tony Boselli, safety Leroy Butler, edge rusher Sam Mills, defensive end Richard Seymour and defensive tackle and Chicago native Bryant Young — but said that not being a first-ballot Hall of Famer “hurts me.”

“I really wanted this one bad,” he wrote. “But life goes on and hopefully it will happen someday.”

Making the final round of 15 in his first year was impressive enough, Covert said.

“It’s rare for specialists to get into the Hall of Fame,” he said, “and even rarer for a specialist to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

Covert came to Southern California to attend the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund party Thursday night. Started by former Packers great Jerry Kramer in 2007 and taken over the next year by former Bears coach Mike Ditka, the fund raises money to help retired NFL players who need medical and financial assistance.

Covert, the sixth overall pick in the 1983 draft, spent his entire career with the Bears, playing his last game in 1990 and going on to become a successful businessman. In all his years as a retired player, he said he never had received a note from the Bears like he did after Matt Eberflus was named head coach last month.

“He sent me a text and introduced himself, and I sent him one back,” Covert said. “I just thought it was really classy and just shows a commitment to the guys who played here before, that he wanted to introduce himself. No other Bears coach has ever done that, like that.”

It was Eberflus’ first step in trying to connect the Bears to their past. Other coaches have done something similar, though not as direct as a text message.

“He said he wanted to meet me,” Covert said. “He takes the position and the responsibility very seriously. And he wants to carry on the tradition that we laid, the foundation that we laid. I thought it was really classy to do that.”

Seconds later, Covert was approached by a stranger jokingly asking to try on his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket. Someone else had complimented him on it earlier.

He smiled. It was the first time he went to Super Bowl week since receiving the coat.

Someday, he said, Hester will wear one of his own.

“He’s gonna get in,” he said. “I have no doubt.”

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