The era of jaw-dropping returnman Devin Hester is over


By Erik Prado

All good things must come to an end.

For Bears’ fans, the era of electrifying punt and kick returns is ending, as Devin Hester will not be re-signed.

This was an expected move. Hester failed as a No. 1 wide receiver under Lovie Smith, and thankfully, general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman used Hester solely as a returner in 2013.

It worked well, as Hester led the league in kickoff return yards, though, he was tied for 16th in punt return yards.

Still, what an awesome eight years it was watching Hester in his No. 23 jersey settle under a punt or kick and take it the distance. He did that 19 times, good enough to tie the individual record.

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Hester deserved to break that record as a Bear, simply because of everything he had already accomplished, however, Emery is making the right move by not re-signing a specialist, given the many needs of the team. 

He became a budding star for the city of Chicago after he returned a punt 82 yards to give his team the lead, and an eventual win, in a 2006 Monday Night Football comeback against Arizona. 

“Devin Hester, you are ridiculous!” Bears’ radioman Jeff Joniak would always say after a big return. 

Hester then sidestepped his way to a mantle very Chicago athletes reach after he returned the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI in a moment Chicagoans will never forget.

In the years since, his dominance waned as he lost speed and whatever else vaulted him past defenders. His punt return touchdown against Washington was his first in nearly two years.

Then, March 5, 2014, came, and poof. Just like that, a player who single-handily forced teams to rethink punt and kickoff strategies was moving on.

It’s unfortunate for fans just getting into football they will not be able to see how great a player Hester was. No longer will an air of anticipation build when Hester takes the field, nor will Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” be played.

The question now becomes if Hester deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. It’s an honest question, given that he rewrote a number of  records. 

Until that day comes, if it does, this is just another reminder to fans everywhere to enjoy the now of sports, because it will change. Players move on to new teams. They retire.

This is why the fans keep coming back, so they can lose themselves in the highs and lows of watching players like Hester rewrite the history books.

Until anther return man makes his mark, Hester will hold the title of greatest returner to play the game.

Devin Hester, you were ridiculous. 

Erik is a senior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @e_prada.