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Road to Canton: Former teammates reflect on Hester as player, person
Story by Larry Mayer

On the 23rd of every month leading up to Devin Hester's Hall of Fame induction in August, chronicles a different aspect of his illustrious career. In the fourth of a five-part series, close friends and former teammates Chris Harris, Rashied Davis and Jason McKie share their unique perspective of Hester as a player and a person.

Read: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

After setting the NFL record for career kick return touchdowns in a 2010 NFC North-clinching win over the Vikings, Devin Hester was asked in the post-game press conference what it meant to celebrate the moment with his teammates.

Overcome with emotion, Hester's voice cracked and his eyes welled up with tears. After pausing to compose himself, he said: "I hate sitting here taking all the glory. I wish them other 10 guys were up here and y'all were asking them questions because they deserve to be up here. I love them."

Throughout his eight seasons with the Bears from 2006-13, the feeling was mutual. Teammates revered Hester—and still do—something that was evident this week when we conducted a virtual roundtable with former Bears safety Chris Harris, receiver Rashied Davis and fullback Jason McKie. All three played with Hester and remain close friends with the record-breaking return specialist.

Here's what they had to say about the player and the person who is being inducted into the Hall of Fame later this summer:

How much pride did you take in playing with Hester and blocking for him?

Harris: "You had a ton of pride anytime you took the field with Devin because you knew anytime that he got the ball he could take it to the house. It was not if, it was when, so you never wanted to be the guy that didn't get his block on a return for Devin because you knew how special he was. When you had a guy like Devin—the best to ever do it—you didn't want to be the weak link."

Davis: "I took a lot of pride in that. It was fun because you knew every time he touched the ball he could go to the house. Whenever you have a player like that—when they're as good as Devin not just as a player but as a person and teammate—you want to try to do whatever you can to help them. And after he became 'Devin Hester, record-breaker,' you wanted to try to help him break records."

Devin Hester and Rashied Davis after Hester's punt return touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 16, 2006
Devin Hester and Rashied Davis after Hester's punt return touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 16, 2006

McKie: "You took a lot of pride in that because you knew the ability that he had. We knew we didn't have to dominate our guy in terms of our blocks. We knew if we just got in the way or gave him any type of crease or daylight, he was going to use the special talents he had been blessed with and he was going to make a play. You saw how many plays he made and changed games. We knew it could be a big momentum change anytime he had the opportunity to get the ball in his hands. We just gave him an opportunity to get started."

What made Hester so special as a player?

Harris: "His vision is what made him so special. He could see things. He could set blocks up. You didn't have to get a great block when Devin was returning because he was elite at setting up blocks and seeing the field. It was like he was playing a video game. As long as you just had your hands and your body on a guy, he could make the block for you. You just had to be close to somebody."

McKie: "Just his ability. There are a lot of guys that can run a 4.4 or a 4.3 in a straight line. Devin had the unique ability to be able to do that—to run fast in a straight line—but to be able to stop on a dime, make a cut, not lose speed and then get back up to speed. There are not a lot of guys that can do that and have that ability and he was able to do all of that. Combine that with his strength. A lot of people talk about how fast he was, but he broke a lot of tackles. He was not a small guy. He had a unique feel for the game. I remember I once asked him, 'Hey man, what goes through your head before you return a kick?' He said he could envision how the return's going to go. He said he was always able to do that. A lot of times you see him make people miss. Well, how did he see them? He just had a feel for the game and that type of ability that he was blessed with."

Davis: "What made him so special was his ability to change directions without slowing up very much. That always blew me away. I wonder how he has any cartilage left in his knees. I'm very quick, very athletic; I couldn't have made it to the NFL without it. But in order for me to change from like a 45-degree angle one way to go back to a 45-degree angle the other way, it took me multiple steps. Devin could do it in one step without slowing down very much."

How would you describe Hester as a person and a teammate?

Harris: "He was an unbelievable teammate and is an unbelievable friend. His rookie year was my second year in the league. He lived right behind me in the same neighborhood. We really got real close. He started out as a DB in his career and so we were really good friends. He is a selfless individual. You wish all your teammates were like that, and we were fortunate to have a great group of men in Chicago during that time. He's an unbelievable person, and extremely selfless."

McKie: "He's a first-class person, humble person, always wanting to help you out, give you the shirt off his back. He's always been a family-first type of guy, a great friend that you can count on for anything. We've been really good friends since he arrived in Chicago. We just had that bond. He's always been like a little brother to me. Then as a teammate, he's the same way. He cares about his teammates. He wants his teammates to be successful. He'd do anything for his teammates. We blocked hard for him, but we cared about him as a person and a teammate because he was that type of guy. We knew he cared about us and the team."

Jason McKie and Devin Hester before a Bears-Vikings game at Soldier Field Oct. 15, 2023
Jason McKie and Devin Hester before a Bears-Vikings game at Soldier Field Oct. 15, 2023

Davis: "He's very kind, very loving. Loves his family, loves his friends. Outgoing. Devin's a good human being. You can see it in the way that he raises his sons and the way he treats his wife. As a teammate, the same thing. He was a good teammate. He wanted you to have success as well as himself."

What's one thing that would surprise Bears fans about Hester?

McKie: "Every away game, no matter what type of hotel we were in, you'd go into Devin's room, and he'd have candles lit in there, he'd have every type of snack that you could imagine, he'd have video games. I used to wonder how he'd fit all that stuff in his suitcase. It was crazy. His hotel room always had to mimic his living room. I'd wonder, 'Am I in a hotel room or am I at your house?'"

Harris: "Devin is a funny dude. Devin cracks jokes. He's a good jokester. He's very fun to be around. It would be more to do with his reactions to things. We did a lot of stuff. We would go bowling. We would go dirt-biking. We would go four-wheeling. We'd shoot pool. His reactions to things are just priceless.

Davis: "He's funny and he talks a lot with us. He doesn't talk a lot publicly to people he doesn't know, but he's very funny with us. We're always cracking on each other, and Devin is hilarious. He can be witty when he wants to be."

What is your favorite on-field moment with Hester?

McKie: "Everybody talks about his Super Bowl return, but I like the return against the Giants (a 108-yard touchdown on a missed field goal attempt in 2006). He's in the back of the end zone, he starts walking out and then he takes it back for a touchdown. Being on the kickoff return team, you never knew what he was going to do. There were set rules, like when you're that deep, it's an automatic no, which means you cannot bring that ball out. But with him you never knew what he was going to do. Overall, I just remember him working every day, working at his craft, staying after practice, catching kickoffs, catching punts. His success didn't come by accident. Yes, he was blessed with special talent, but he worked on his craft every day to be the best and to be a Hall of Famer."

Davis: "My favorite Devin moment and when I really began to recognize his greatness was early on when we played against the Rams and he took that kickoff return to the house with the hands team in the field. I tell people that story all the time. It is still one of the most impressive things I've ever seen as a player. That was the moment that I really understood he's just different. We thought they might (attempt an onside kick), so we put the hands team on the field. We had Muhsin Muhammad, Dez Clark, Bernard Berrian and all these dudes on the front line who typically don't do that. I'm not saying that they can't, but it's a recovery team; it's not a 'go down and block somebody and let somebody go to the house' team. And Devin took that thing to the house without being touched. It blew me away."

Harris: "I'm sure everybody says that return in the Super Bowl; I was fortunate enough to be on that kickoff team blocking for him. But my favorite moment was his rookie year when we were playing the Rams in St. Louis on a Monday night. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and the second one came with the hands team out there. That was probably my favorite moment because it was all receivers and DBs out there blocking. That was a prime example of how Devin could set things up. You had guys who I wouldn't say were the best blockers because you had a bunch of receivers and DBs trying to get the ball. But all they had to do was be close to somebody and let Devin go to work. If you were just close to somebody, he'd make you right, he'd set up the block so well."

Chris Harris, Devin Hester and former Bears running back Thomas Jones celebrate after Hester's second return touchdown of the game Dec. 11, 2006
Chris Harris, Devin Hester and former Bears running back Thomas Jones celebrate after Hester's second return touchdown of the game Dec. 11, 2006

Hester generated countless impact plays for the Bears and unforgettable memories for his friends and teammates, many of whom will reconnect Aug. 3 in Canton when he becomes the first return specialist inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Take a look back at the Bears career of legendary return specialist and new Pro Football Hall of Famer Devin Hester, who recorded 34 touchdowns during his eight seasons in Chicago.

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