February 29, 2024

Bears News

Chicago Bears legend Devin Hester not selected for Hall of Fame in 2023

For 2nd straight year, Hester was among 15 finalists but did not earn a Hall of Fame nod

Chicago Bears' Devin Hester stiff-arms Houston Texans' Whitney Mercilus during a game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Chicago. Devin Hester is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2022.

The wait will continue for Bears legend Devin Hester.

Hester was among 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2023, but the longtime Bears return specialist was not among players voted in.

The NFL announced the Class of 2023 during its NFL Honors awards show Thursday night. Cornerback Ronde Barber, cornerback Darrelle Revis, tackle Joe Thomas, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, linebacker Zach Thomas, linebacker Chuck Howley, defensive lineman Joe Klecko, cornerback Ken Riley and coach Don Coryell were all elected into the Hall of Fame.

This was Hester’s second year on the ballot.

Hester’s effect on the game still resonates with the players of today. Today’s return specialists watch his highlights and study his film. He played a niche position, a niche role on the football field – yet he was undoubtedly the best to ever do it.

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.

But it still, apparently, wasn’t enough to earn a Hall of Fame nod. Or, at least, not yet.

Sixteen years ago, Hester returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown on the first play of Super Bowl XLI in 2007. 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.

That’s the thing about special teams touchdowns, they’re always unexpected and electrifying. That’s what made Hester so much fun to watch.

“If you want to talk what the Hall of Fame is supposed to represent, it’s supposed to represent being the best players at their positions – the best players to ever play the game,” Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower said last month. “I don’t think that there’s a question that Devin Hester is the best player at the return position, in the combo return position, with all the records that he holds, everything he did his rookie year, everything he has done not only at the Bears, even when he went somewhere else. He revolutionized the game of football and how coaches cover kicks.”

The Bears selected Hester with a second-round draft pick in 2006 (57th overall). Many teams didn’t know what to think of Hester coming out of Miami because he wasn’t a sure thing at cornerback.

Hester played in Chicago from 2006-13, scoring all but one of his kick 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.

Hester was hoping to become the 31st former Bears player inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2018, linebacker Brian Urlacher became the latest Bears player inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.