It shouldn’t be this way. In my eyes, Hester is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. The man changed the game and I think that’s the most important credential.
When I think about Hester, I think back to something I heard in the Hall of Fame selection room on one of the three occasions I’ve been fortunate to be an alternate voter. A very respected member of the national media said that the criteria for selection should be simple. He said it should come down to one question – could the history of the game be written without that player.
So let’s frame it like that – could the history of the NFL be written without Hester? I say the answer is a definitive no. Quite simply, Hester, who was released by the Atlanta Falcons, was the best return man ever. He forced opponents to make changes to their special teams. It became common for teams to kick away from him or kick out of bounds. The man was a threat every time he touched the ball and he holds most of the all-time kickoff return and punt return records.
In a career that started in 2006 and likely is now over, Hester returned 276 kickoffs for 6,867 yards (an average of 24.9 yards) and five touchdowns. As a punt returner, Hester had 290 returns for 3,515 yards (an average of 12.1 yards) and 14 touchdowns. He has the numbers, so why is there even a question about whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame?
The answer is easy. Hall of Fame voters are a finicky bunch. They look at a guy’s accomplishments, but they also look for holes in his game and that could be a problem for Hester. He was a one-dimensional player. He was great on returns, but didn’t make much of an impact on offense or defense.