As the Bears and the NFL celebrate their 100th season in 2019, fans will have the chance to vote for the greatest moment in franchise history. They’ll choose from four moments that will be featured in chronological order this week on ChicagoBears.com.
The winning moment will be announced during the regular season. It will then compete against the greatest moments from every other NFL team via a bracket tournament, with the top moment in league history set to be revealed at NFL Honors the night before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.
The following story details Devin Hester’s 92-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI against the Indianapolis Colts Feb. 4, 2007 in Miami.
Devin Hester capped a record-breaking rookie season by becoming the first player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown. The second-round draft pick from Miami dashed 92 yards to give the Bears an early 7-0 lead in an eventual 29-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
“This is what I had been envisioning all week and actually for the past two weeks,” Hester said after the game. “We had the chance to come out with the kickoff return on the first play of the game. But the bad part about it is that we didn’t come out with the victory.”
During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Radio Show in 2015, former Colts coach Tony Dungy revealed that Indianapolis initially was going to try to keep the ball out of Hester’s hands.
“We had decided all week that we were not going to kick the ball to Devin Hester,” Dungy said. “[The night before the game] after the meeting, I thought, ‘That’s really playing scared. We’re not going to do that.’ So the next morning, I told the team when we were going to the game, ‘I hope we lose the toss, because if we do, we’re going to kick it right down the middle to Hester and we’re going to pound him. And when they know we’ve taken their best threat, they’re going to be finished.
“Thirteen seconds later, he was in the end zone, and everybody’s looking at me like, ‘Whose (idea was) that?’”
Hester enjoyed a magical rookie season, setting an NFL record with five kick return touchdowns during the regular 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 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’s performance in 2006 helped the Bears win the NFC North with a 13-3 record and win their first NFC championship since 1985.
Hester is considered by many to be the greatest return specialist in NFL history. In eight seasons with the Bears, he became the league’s all-time leader with 18 kick return touchdowns and 13 punt return TDs, 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.