Devin Hester didn’t stop to consider his Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials until after his last game, a Seahawks playoff loss in January.
Never short on confidence, the former Bears great liked his résumé.
“Now that I retired, I thought about it and questioned myself: ‘Did I do enough to be in the Hall of Fame?’ ” he told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. “Without a doubt. I came to the conclusion that I did all I can do, and there’s no way I shouldn’t be in it.”
Hester made his retirement official Tuesday after turning down seven contract offers in the last 11 months, he said, because he was burned out on football. He since has relished the ordinary duties of fatherhood, waiting at bus stops and attending classroom events for his two sons. A third child is on the way.
Hester leaves the game as a singular player in NFL history. His 20 career return touchdowns — all but one with the Bears from 2006 to 2013 — are a league record. His return of the Super Bowl XLI opening kickoff remains one of the iconic moments in Bears history.
“When you pick a Hall of Famer, man, you gotta pick someone that’s the best at their position — that’s No. 1,” Hester said. “The No. 1 reason why you pick a Hall of Fame guy, a player, is, ‘Are they the best at their position?’
“Then you go from that point on to stats. You start looking at stats. . . . If you look at my stats and the position I played, you just go and type in best returner of all time, apparently my name’s going to pop up in the top two every time.
“You type in the best quarterback of all time. When that person comes up, I’m pretty sure he’s in the Hall of Fame. You type in the best running back of all time; I’m pretty sure he’s in the Hall of Fame.”
Still, Canton, Ohio, is hard on specialists; only two full-time kickers and one punter are enshrined.
Rules changes mean even the most talented returner is unlikely to match Hester’s prowess. The NFL moved kickoffs up five yards in 2011 to promote safety, then incentivized touchbacks even more last year by moving the ball up five yards for taking one.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis, the only active Bear to team with Hester, was asked to make the case for him in the Hall.
“He made his own case,” McManis said. “Just watch the tape.”
Opponents would have to be crazy not to be intimidated by Hester’s return talents, he said.
“There was just no telling what he was going to do with that ball,” McManis said.
After the Bears let Hester walk, he logged his 20th and final return touchdown for the Falcons in 2014 and made the Pro Bowl for the fourth time. After another season in Atlanta, Hester played 12 games for the Ravens before being picked up by the Seahawks for one playoff game.
Hester said then he’d likely retire but didn’t put it in writing until Tuesday.
“In the return game, the kind of production he had was very, very difficult,” coach John Fox said. “He changed games.”
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