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Devin Hester among 15 finalists for Hall of Fame

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For the third straight year, former Bears star Devin Hester has been named one of 15 Modern-Era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hester played eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Bears. The most prolific return specialist in league history, he holds NFL records with 19 kick-return touchdowns, 14 punt-return TDs and 20 return touchdowns, which includes punts, kickoffs, missed field goals, fumbles and interceptions.

Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Miami, Hester was voted to three Pro Bowls, won 13 special teams player of the week awards and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s.

Hester set an NFL single season record with five kick return touchdowns as a rookie in 2006 and then eclipsed the mark with six TDs in 2007.

As a rookie, Hester returned a punt 84 yards for a TD against the Packers in his first NFL game, lifted the Bears to a stunning 24-23 comeback victory over the Cardinals with a late 83-yard punt return TD; and set a single-game franchise record with 225 kickoff return yards in a win over the Rams, including TDs of 94 and 96 yards.

Hester then capped his remarkable rookie season by becoming the first player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown, dashing 92 yards in an eventual 29-17 loss to the Colts.

In 2007, Hester returned four punts and two kickoffs for touchdowns. In a 37-34 overtime win over the Broncos, he scored TDs on a 75-yard punt return and 88-yard kickoff return.

Hester returned three punts for scores in 2010, two punts and one kickoff for TDs in 2011 and one punt for a touchdown in 2013. He remains the Bears' all-time leader in punt return yards (3,241), kickoff return yards (5,504), total kick return yards (8,745), punt returns (264) and kickoff returns (222).

Former Bears defensive ends Julius Peppers and Jared Allen are also among the 15 Modern-Era finalists. Peppers spent four of his 17 NFL seasons with the Bears from 2010-13 and ranks fourth in league history with 159.5 sacks. Allen played two of his 12 NFL seasons with the Bears in 2014-15 and ranks 12th in league history with 136.0 sacks.

The Hall of Fame's 50-person Selection Committee will reduce the list of 15 finalists to 10 and then to five. Each of the remaining five will be voted on, with an 80 percent "yes" vote required for enshrinement.

That's also the case for former Bears defensive tackle Steve McMichael, who is a senior finalist along with Randy Gradishar and Art Powell.

The Hall of Fame's Class of 2024 will be announced live Feb. 8 on the "NFL Honors" telecast prior to Super Bowl LVII in Las Vegas. The class will then be enshrined in August in Canton, Ohio.

The Bears have 30 individuals inducted in the Hall of Fame, the most of any NFL team.

Here are the 15 Modern-Era finalists:

  •     Eric Allen, cornerback
  •     Jared Allen, defensive end
  •     Willie Anderson, offensive tackle
  •     Jahri Evans, guard
  •     Dwight Freeney, defensive end
  •     Antonio Gates, tight end
  •     Rodney Harrison, safety
  •     Devin Hester, punt returner/kick returner/wide receiver
  •     Torry Holt, wide receiver
  •     Andre Johnson, wide receiver
  •     Julius Peppers, defensive end
  •     Fred Taylor, running back
  •     Reggie Wayne, wide receiver
  •     Patrick Willis, linebacker
  •     Darren Woodson, safety

Take a look at each of the 32 players in franchise history to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of any team in the NFL.

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