Devin Hester did it again in Week 10, returning a punt for a touchdown for the 12th time in his career. Throw in his five kick return TDs and another touchdown off a missed field goal and it begs the question: Is Hester a Hall of Famer?
The best all-time hitters in baseball still succeed even when pitchers stop throwing to them. The best wide receivers in football still thrive even when double covered. More attention results in equal or greater success. That's why, in the case of Devin Hester, I believe we need to see a greater body of work to say conclusively he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Of course, Hester faces a more difficult crutch than, say, a wide receiver in double coverage, since a ball punted out of bounds is impossible to return. Heck, he's had rules established to limit him.
But if he is going to make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on special team merits alone, his success needs to be sustainable for longer than six seasons. Seven seasons? Eight? I just think we'll all know when we know. With all of that said, given his resurgence in 2011, he's making a very strong case that he'll get there.
Devin Hester should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible. He is the most dominant returner in NFL history, which warrants his spot in Canton. Although some will attempt to diminish his accomplishments because of the lack of respect for the kicking game, his overall impact on the game despite receiving minimal touches should make up for his marginal impact as a position player. If the Hall of Fame is for the most dominant players in the game, I don't know how you could leave Hester off the list.
This is so hard because putting in someone who mainly is a special teams player is like putting a middle reliever in the Baseball Hall of Fame. To trump that argument, Hester's effect on a game is obvious. Teams have to plan for him. Kick away from him or be prepared to get burned. He's as scary as any skill player in the game.
I'd have to say he belongs in Canton because nobody else has come close to what he consistently does. Guys will flash for a season or two, but Hester makes impact returns seemingly every other time he touches the ball.
It's silly to suggest Hester doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. It'd be like keeping the all-time greatest closer out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Dante Hall, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson, Louis Lipps, White Shoes Johnson, Ricky Upchurch and Brian Mitchell all take a backseat to Hester, the best returner in the history of the game. If the argument is that he's "only" a great returner, then why don't we just go ahead and eliminate the kicking phase of the game? All those game-changing, soul-crushing TDs he's scored count the same as other touchdowns, right?
To me, Hall of Famers are players who affect how the game will be played every time they step onto the field. Hall of Famers make opponents change their way of doing things. By these definitions (admittedly mine), Devin Hester is a Hall of Fame player. If I had a vote, I would cast it for Devin Hester, Kick Returner, Chicago Bears. No discussion necessary.