Three former Bears have punched their tickets for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Legendary defensive tackle Steve “Mongo” McMichael, one-of-a-kind return specialist Devin Hester and sack monster Julius Peppers all will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer. McMichael earned his spot in the Hall after waiting two decades. He was voted in as a “senior” nominee. Hester and Peppers were among the five “modern era” players voted in this year.
The NFL announced the 2024 Hall of Fame class during NFL Honors on Thursday in Las Vegas. The Class of 2024 also includes: defensive end Dwight Freeney, receiver Andre Johnson, linebacker Patrick Willis and linebacker Randy Gradishar.
They will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in early August during a ceremony in Canton, Ohio.
The 66-year-old McMichael, who announced he’s battling ALS in April 2021, was an All-Pro defensive lineman for the Super Bowl XX champion Bears during the 1985 season. He played for the Bears from 1981-93 and earned five All-Pro nods and two Pro Bowl appearances.
McMichael totaled 95 sacks over a 15-year career, including 92.5 as a member of the Bears. He was originally drafted with a third-round pick by the New England Patriots in 1980 but was cut after one season. The Bears signed him ahead of the 1981 season and he played in a limited role in his first few seasons in Chicago. In 1983, he had a breakout performance with 8.5 sacks and followed it with 10 sacks in 1984. He earned his first All-Pro honors in 1985 and was a dominant force for the Super Bowl champion Bears.
McMichael became a pro wrestler after his NFL career and was a frequent presence on Chicago sports talk radio for many years.
Hester’s effect on the game still resonates today. No player affected his position more than Hester did for returners.
During his 11-year NFL career, Hester returned 14 punts and five kickoffs for touchdowns, plus one touchdown returned on a missed field goal. His 20 total return touchdowns ranks first all-time in NFL history. His 14 punt return touchdowns is also an NFL record.
Seventeen years ago, Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown on the first play of Super Bowl XLI. To do it in the biggest game of his life, with the world watching – on the first play of the game, no less – cemented Hester’s legacy. It remains the only touchdown scored on the opening kickoff in Super Bowl history.
The Bears selected Hester with a second-round draft pick in 2006. He played in Chicago from 2006-13, scoring all but one of his return touchdowns with the Bears. He went on to play two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons in 2014-15. He played for the Baltimore Ravens in 2016 and briefly appeared with the Seattle Seahawks during the playoffs that season. He retired following the 2016 season and signed a ceremonial one-day contract with the Bears in 2018, ending his career where it began.
Peppers joined the Bears after playing the first eight years of his pro career with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers drafted Peppers with the No. 2 overall pick in 2002. In 2010, the Bears signed him to a six-year, $91.5 million contract in free agency.
Peppers played only four seasons for the Bears, but he went to the Pro Bowl three times in that span. He recorded 37.5 sacks and 10 forced fumbles in 64 games with the Bears. His addition was a big reason why the Bears won 11 games and reached the NFC title game during the 2010 season.
After his time with the Bears, Peppers played three seasons with the Green Bay Packers before returning to Carolina for two seasons. Peppers totaled 159.5 sacks over his 17-year career. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot.