MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 9: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears looks on during the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 9, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Over the last two years, Chicago Bears fans have had to deal with the departures of a couple of key contributors to the success of the same during the new millennium. Last season, it was Brian Urlacher, and now this season, it’s going to be Devin Hester.
On Wednesday night, Hester posted a message on his Facebook page to fans of the team, indicating that earlier reports that the team was moving on from their long relationship were valid:
While Hester is going to be packing up his bags and playing elsewhere in the 2014 season, Bears fans are left with some indelible memories of the speedster’s time in the Windy City. His Super Bowl XLI kick-off return for a touchdown is one of those moments. His two return touchdowns against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football are two more. Heck, even the two touchdowns he had called back in the 2013 season because of penalties (which would have broken the all-time return touchdown record) were still remarkable for the way Hester made his way around the field.
Obviously Hester won’t be in a conversation with players like Babe Ruth in terms of the greatest athletes to ever grace American fields, but the way Hester impacted the game is similar in a way to that of Ruth or to a Michael Jordan or Wayne Gretzky. Every time that down marker would read “4”, fans of any NFL team would put the remote control down, and they would stare at the TV as Hester would walk back to his return spot. Few athletes can capture the attention of the American sporting public like that, and Hester’s ability to break a big play in those situations made punt returns must see TV, and he thrilled Bears fans for years with his exploits.
Even in later seasons when teams began to consistently kick away from Hester, he still would occasionally flash that brilliance. Perhaps the ball would spin off the punter’s boot just the wrong way. Maybe a coverage scheme would be blown by an overzealous cornerback looking to make a big play. Whatever the case may be, watching Hester slice and dice his way through defenses was an incredible sight for any sports fan, and his presence had a massive influence on more games than anyone can care to count.
Now though, Hester is going to take his “ridiculous” play (to borrow a Jeff Joniak line) somewhere else next season, and while it will be weird to see him lining up for kicks in another team’s uniform, whether Tampa Bay black or New York Jet green, Bears fans will still have the exclusive bragging rights to seeing one of the game’s all-time greats at his absolute best, and when he gets his bust enshrined in Canton, they can see that they saw greatness in its true form.