"Devin is producing at that level but let's not forget that the Bears took him out of that role for a long stretch because they wanted to try to make him a No. 1 wide receiver," said Dan Hampton to the Chicago Tribune "Had he caught 70 passes he would never have gone back to his most dominant role which is as a kickoff and punt returner."
Hester broke the return touchdown record in just 74 games, but as Hampton points out, he hasn't even fielded as many returns as he could have. For 2009 and much of this season, Hester only returned punts. The Bears wanted him to excel as a wide receiver, but gave him another shot at kickoffs during the Bears first game against the Vikings.
He is the most prolific return man of his era, but does that make him worthy of the Hall of Fame?
There are no players who have been inducted into the HOF strictly as return specialists. Gale Sayers was a respected return man, and had eight return TDs in his injury-shortened career with the Bears, but he was made a member of the HOF because of his rushing abilities. Three kickers also are in the Hall: George Blanda, Jan Stenerud and Lou Groza, but Stenerud is the only one who didn't play more than one position.
That says volumes about the value the Hall of Fame puts on special teams, but perhaps Hester can change attitudes on that. Not only is he a game changer, but he plays on a team that puts special teams on equal footing with the offense and defense. Hester credited his teammates with the record, while the teammates said they were proud to get to wear the same uniform as Hester.
Hester strikes fear into his opponents every time he is in the backfield, waiting for kicks. Teams take the bad field position that comes with kicking the ball out of bounds instead of chancing that he gets the ball. If he keeps that up, that seems like the definition of a Hall-of-Famer. Just five seasons into his career, it's too early to say if Hester is a Hall of Famer, but if there is anyone who should break through to Canton, it will be him.