Punts and kickoffs were commonly times in football games to refresh the dip and chips bowls. Devin Hester changed all that.
[RELATED: Bears pay tribute to Devin Hester]
“Every single time, even in a stretch where he wasn’t having a lot of big returns, every time he was back for a kickoff or a punt,” said Bears play by play announcer Jeff Joniak, who called all 19 of Hester’s TD returns, “you expected something to happen.”
1. Super Bowl XLI opening kickoff
He had six TD returns going into Super Bowl XLI against the Indianapolis Colts so a Devin Hester scoring runback felt like it was becoming almost expected. But not this time, not in a Super Bowl. At least not in most Super Bowls.
Hester has had more spectacular returns in his distinguished career but none of potential impact than one to open a Super Bowl. The Colts schemed to pin Hester to the left sideline and kicker Adam Vinatieri delivered the ball to the Chicago 8, outside the left hashmarks, as planned.
Hester started upfield behind his three-man wall of John Gilmore, Israel Idonije and Gabe Reid, cut upfield toward the middle, then broke outside against the grain and took the ball up the right sideline for a score that took only 14 seconds. It was the fastest score ever for a Super Bowl before the Seattle Seahawks’ safety last month in their Super Bowl win over Denver — the latter quarterbacked by Peyton Manning, the same quarterback who had to watch Hester’s TD return in Super Bowl XLI.
2. MNF, vs. Arizona Cardinals, Oct. 16, 2006
The epic comeback against Dennis Green’s Cardinals was remembered in large part because of the performance of Brian Urlacher and members of the defense. But the winning points of the game came on an 83-yard punt return by Hester with just under three minutes remaining. Hester had six punt returns for 152 total yards in the game.
“I'm the type of player that feeds off momentum...and momentum was really high, you know, and I felt the energy that was building off our defense and it kind of trickled down to me,” Hester recalled. “And I said 'well I'm not really playing no defense...if I get an opportunity, I'm gonna make the best of it.'”
3. “Devin Hester, you are RIDICULOUS!”
The Dec. 11, 2006 win over the St. Louis Rams clinched a first-round playoff bye for the Bears, and Hester provided the decisive points, surprising even those already growing to expect great things from him.
Hester returned a second-quarter kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. But it was the one in the fourth quarter, covering 96 yards, that spurred Joniak to proclaim, “Devin Hester, you are ridiculous!”
“That was just a raw reaction to a unique, dynamic, electrifying moment by the most special return man I’ve ever seen,” Joniak said.
4. Dec. 20, 2010, in the Minneapolis snow
Because of snow collapsing the Metrodome, the Bears and Minnesota Vikings were forced to play their second game of 2010 outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium on. The conditions were frigid and snowy, but Hester clearly wasn’t bothered any more by snow than Gale Sayers was by mud.
His 64-yard return early in the third quarter capped off a run of 27 unanswered Bears points in a 40-14 win. The touchdown return also was the NFL record-breaker for punt returns.
5. No. 19, Oct. 20, 2013.
The Bears left FedEx Field with an injured quarterback (Jay Cutler), injured linebacker (Lance Briggs) and a 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins. But Hester helped keep the Bears in the game with an 81-yard punt return in the second quarter.
It was his 13th TD return of a punt, adding to his own record. It also turned out to be his last in a Bears uniform.
Take a look back at all of Hester's return TDs:
Week 1 - Bears at Packers (84-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 26-0
Week 6 - Bears at Cardinals (83-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 24-23
Week 10 - Bears at Giants (108-yard return of missed FG for TD) Bears win 38-20
Week 13 - Bears vs. Vikings (45-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 23-13
Week 14 - Bears at Rams (94-yard kickoff return for TD) Bears win 42-27
Week 14 - Bears at Rams (96-yard kickoff return for TD) Bears win 42-27
Super Bowl XLI - Bears vs. Colts (92-yard kickoff return for TD) Colts win 29-17
Week 2 - Bears vs. Chiefs (73-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 20-10
Week 4 - Bears at Lions (97-yard kickoff return for TD) Lions win 37-27
Week 7 - Bears vs. Vikings (89-yard punt return for TD) Vikings win 34-31
Week 12 - Bears vs. Broncos (75-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 37-34
Week 12 - Bears vs. Broncos (88-yard kickoff return for TD) Bears win 37-34
Week 17 - Bears vs. Saints (64-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 33-25
No return TD's
No return TD's
Week 3 - Bears vs. Packers (62-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 20-17
Week 6 - Bears vs. Seahawks (89-yard punt return for TD) Seahawks win 23-20
Week 15 - Bears at Vikings (64-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 40-14
Week 4 - Bears vs. Panthers (69-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 34-29
Week 6 - Bears vs. Vikings (98-yard kickoff return for TD) Bears win 39-10
Week 10 - Bears vs. Lions (82-yard punt return for TD) Bears win 37-13
No return TD's
Week 7 - Bears at Redskins (81-yard punt return for TD) Redskins win 45-41