Devin Hester

Bears legend Devin Hester finally becomes football ‘immortal' with Hall of Fame nod

Devin Hester can finally keep on running all the way to Canton

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LAS VEGAS -- Devin Hester waited way longer than necessary -- longer than his illustrious resume should have allowed.

But the Bears' legendary return man never lost faith that his journey would end in a gold jacket and an enshrinement in Canton, Ohio. That vision became reality Thursday when Hester was officially announced as a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee for the class of 2024.

“Honestly, I thought I was going to be a first ballot, you know I really did, you know what I mean?" Hester said at the Hall of Fame press conference in Las Vegas. "My work on the field and the confidence that I had in the NFL, I really thought that I was first ballot. But at the end of the day, man, I’m just blessed, and I’m honored to be the first returner. It’s hard to say who’s the number one quarterback, number two running back, number one defensive player, but in the situation I’m in, I can honestly say I’m the number one returner of all time. It’s a great honor."

Hester was denied access into football's most-exclusive club in his first two times on the ballot. It would have been easy for the Bears' legend to believe that football's gatekeepers wouldn't allow a returner to don a gold jacket.

But that's not Hester. He saw his close calls as reason to believe his day would come. He just had to keep swinging.

"I'm going to picture it as, I don’t know if you guys have ever been in fights in school but when you get in fight with a kid at school and he beats you up or you beat him up, you know the next you’re probably going to have to fight him again until you win," Hester said. "That’s the situation I felt like I was in. I didn’t make it this year, well you going to have to see me again next year. To be able to make the finalist three years in a row, I knew it was a no-brainer that one day I would be a Hall of Famer.”

Hester's numbers are unimpeachable. His highlights the stuff of football lore. He was a blur with the ball in his hands. His moves were liquid grace.

There Hester stood Thursday, sporting a diamond goat necklace, basking in an honor bestowed on only 378 players in history. An honor that he never deemed would be attached to his name when he was growing up in Riviera Beach, Fla.

"This is a wild dream that I never imagined," Hester said. "This is bigger than everything. This is not only a dream, but this is something that I felt as a kid was impossible. I never thought about me being in the Hall of Fame. That was just too much out of the picture.

"You don’t sit back when you’re growing up as a kid and think about the Hall of Fame until you get to the league and you get to the NFL, and you start seeing all the Hall of Famers pop up around you, and you start thinking these guys are immortal," Hester said later. "They’re the superheroes of the NFL. That’s the way you look at the Hall of Fame. You have Pro Bowl players, you have All-Pro players, but then you have the Greek gods, which is the Hall of Famers. To be in that category and to be listed as a Hall of Famer, man, is amazing. To be the 374th player out of who knows how many players have played football and not only played football, but played in the NFL. To be selected as the 374th player is just a blessing for me as well as my family.”

Hester wore 23 in Chicago. He'll forever be enshrined with the No. 374 attached to his name.

Hester and legendary defensive tackle Steve McMichael became the 31st and 32nd players to primarily play their NFL career for the Bears to earn gold jackets.

Hester never imagined he'd become a Canton legend when he was growing up. But once he arrived in Chicago and saw how many NFL legends had made their marks as Bears, he began to believe that he could achieve a milestone reserved only for those whose names are etched into immortality with unforgettable feats.

“That’s when I realized this was really real," Hester said about how the Bears' rich history gave him the belief that he could be an all-time great. "Growing up in high school, you didn’t look that far to the Hall of Fame—until I got to Halas Hall and then it was trophies and Hall of Fame this guy and Hall of Fame that guy when you realize, ‘Wow, I am actually in the NFL,’ and now it is high-powered award that is everything and is really the last award you can really get in football. And to be honest, this is the last award that any football player can get is the Hall of Fame, and to be able to make it, man, it’s a dream come true."

Ever since he entered the league, five words have been associated with the Bears' legend.

Devin Hester, back to return.

Now, three everlasting words have been tacked on.

Hall of Famer

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