In addition to ranking the top 100 players in Bears history, Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson have also chosen the franchise’s all-time team by position in the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook. The following is a look at special teams:
The most prolific return specialist in NFL history highlights the Bears’ all-time special teams unit.
In eight seasons with the Bears from 2006-13, Devin Hester became the NFL’s all-time leader with 18 kick return touchdowns and 13 punt return TDs. The 2006 second-round pick 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.
“Devin Hester was a must-see highlight reel for eight seasons,” Pierson wrote.
Hester made an immediate impact as a rookie in 2006, setting an NFL single-season record with five kick return touchdowns and then eclipsing the mark with six TDs in 2007.
During Hester’s magical rookie season, he returned a punt 84 yards for a touchdown in a 26-0 win over the Packers in his first NFL game; lifted the Bears to 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 the year 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 loss to the Colts.
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).
After playing sparingly at cornerback as a rookie, Hester was switched to receiver in 2007. Over the next six seasons he caught 217 passes for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns. His most productive year as a wideout came in 2009 when he had 57 receptions for 757 yards and three TDs.
The kick returner on the all-time team is Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers. The Kansas Comet’s 30.6-yard average on 91 kickoff returns remains the best in NFL history, and his six career kickoff return touchdowns are tied for the most in league annals.
Sayers averaged 37.7 yards on 16 kickoff returns in 1967, including a 103-yard touchdown against the Steelers that remains the longest in Bears history.
Sayers also averaged 14.5 yards on 27 punt returns with two touchdowns.
The kicker on the all-time team is Robbie Gould, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,207 points. In 11 seasons with the Bears from 2005-15, Gould set team records for field goals made (276), field goals made from 50 yards and beyond (23) and longest field goal (58 yards in 2013).
The punter on the all-time team is Bobby Joe Green, the only punter in Bears history to be voted to the Pro Bowl. Green, who had just two of 833 punts blocked in 12 seasons with the Bears from 1962-73, was a member of the 1963 NFL championship team.