The Bears’ Hester has a many happy returns this past season
HERE is the question: Can we just fix the coin toss, in today's Pro Bowl, so as to ensure the Bears' Devin Hester can get his hands on the ball on the first play of the game -- again?
Let's do it. Let's call it. Right now. AFC kicks off.
It's better he receives.
You love Hester, don't you? I know I do. Let's get him the ball again, on the very first play. Just like in last week's Super Bowl, when he made history with a touchdown off the very first kick.
I love this guy. He returns everything. Kickoffs. Punts. He tied an NFL record with a 108-yard touchdown return off a missed field-goal kick.
Then, in the Super Bowl -- boom, he did it again. A touchdown on the first play of the game. (In doing so he even won $10,000 for a struggling young couple who will use it toward car repairs and their honeymoon after winning an opening-kickoff contest at a Chicago bar.)
This guy is incredible.
Let's give it to him again.
Let's rig the coin toss. Let's put in the fix. This is the Pro Bowl, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to be showcasing the players the fans want to see?
Peyton Manning finally won the Super Bowl and Tiki Barber's retiring and LaDainian Tomlinson is the MVP. But pro football's most spectacular star just might this guy. Hester. A rookie. He's electric. It's ecstatic. He's in some kind of kick-return zone.
"I would say so," he said.
So would I.
Devin Hester scored on the opening kickoff last week.
Hester returned six kicks for touchdowns in his college career, so you knew he was good. But then he tied that number in his first year in the pros -- an NFL record (nine guys had scored four).
Remember that Monday night in Arizona, when the Bears almost blew it? It was Hester's 82-yard punt return that saved the day.
Two kick returns in one game on another Monday night? No problem.
The Super Bowl? (His seventh touchdown?)
Just the icing on the cake.
Every year, it seems some kick returner takes the NFL by storm. Michael Lewis ("the Gingerbread Man," "the Beer Man"). Dante Hall. This year it's Hester. It was crazy. He was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week three times.
He took the NFL by storm.
Thank goodness. Someone should.
There is no greater play in sports than a broken-field kick return. It's insanely beautiful. It seems chaotic, yet it isn't.
Then again, yes, it is. That's exactly what it is.
"I was just a little more patient," Hester said of his late-season heroics. "A little more focused, and I just tried to do my job."
It seems ridiculous that Hester could sum up his role this way, yet somehow, perfect, too. He kept his head (and his feet) when all around him were losing theirs.
A little more patient. A little more focused.
And then a move, and he was gone.
"He doesn't play around," Bucs special teamer Earnest Graham told the Tampa Tribune in December. "He makes a cut and it's over."
That's what happened in the Super Bowl.
"I felt like I really needed," he began, before switching gears. "I really had to," he said, starting in another direction, then another cut: "I felt like I needed to step my game up and I tried to," he decided, accelerating.
And then he was gone:
"And fortunately," he said, "I was able to come up big."
There you go, that's a kick return. This is a guy we want making plays in the Pro Bowl. That's a guy you showcase. This is football's newest star.
So, a question: Can we get him the ball first? Can we fix the coin toss? Can he play for both teams?
Another question: In an all-star game, is anyone going to be actually trying to tackle him?
A bigger question (this one brought to mind by the boss, Paul Arnett): In an all-star game full of star starters, could anyone be bothered to throw a special-teams block?
"I hope they will," Hester said, breaking into a grin the way he breaks into the open. "Yes."
OK, then. It's settled. That's all I want to see. Let's make history, put an exclamation point on it, the greatest kick-return season ever, bring home touchdown No. 8. Sure, kick-return scores are rare to begin with, and in all-star situations you're surrounded by 10 strangers, all of them out of place, out of synch. But if anyone can do it, it must be this guy, the rookie, the record holder, the latest broken-field kick returner to take the NFL by storm.
Devin Hester. Let's kick it to him, that's what this game is about. It's official -- he's now one of the guys we've come here to see.
So how about it. Does he have one more great run in him today?
"Well, I hope I can return a couple of them," Hester said. "But at the same time, just try to go in and have fun."
It sounds like we're talking about the exact same thing.