Earlier this week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2023, which included, among other honorees, longtime Browns tackle Joe Thomas, Super Bowl champion and Jets Ring of Honor recipient Darrelle Revis and legendary pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware. Devin Hester, who holds league records for career return touchdowns (20), punt return touchdowns (14) and return touchdowns in a single season (six), was named one of 19 finalists but didn’t hear his name called Thursday night, snubbed by the selection committee for the second time in as many years.
Hester shouldn’t feel slighted—other deserving candidates including Andre Johnson, Dwight Freeney and former NFL sacks leader Jared Allen also missed the cut. Garnering finalist recognition in his first year on the ballot and again in his second year of eligibility would suggest the Bears great will eventually get in, perhaps as early as 2024. However, that still doesn’t sit well with Deion Sanders, who isn’t sure what the holdup is, arguing that Hester’s contributions on special teams make him a lock for Canton.
“How can Devin Hester not be voted in the Hall of Fame?” Sanders lamented during his sit-down with Yahoo’s Matt Harmon on Radio Row. “This man changed the game. How can you skip over him for the second straight time?”
Though critics might dismiss him as a one-trick pony, Hester may have been better at his one trick than any player in league history, a dominant return specialist whose speed and elusiveness were unrivaled. At the height of his powers, the four-time Pro Bowler was so feared teams would often avoid kicking to him, preferring to let the ball go out of bounds than risk Hester returning it for six.
“The best ever,” said Sanders, who, after a three-year stint at Jackson State, was recently hired as head coach at the University of Colorado. “I said it, because, arguably, I’m the best ever. But I said he’s the best ever.”
A decorated return man himself with nine career touchdowns (six punt, three kickoff), Sanders’ endorsement is noteworthy, especially considering how critical he’s been of the Hall of Fame in recent years, lamenting its increasingly lax induction standards rewarding players who were good but never truly great. Unfortunately for Hester, he’ll have to wait at least another year for his coveted gold jacket.