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Falcons Sign Kick-Returner Extraordinaire Devin Hester

Devin Hester, Matt Giordano, Dexter Reid

Devin Hester has been the most dynamic kick returner in NFL history—and now he plays for the Atlanta Falcons.

Hester inked a three-year, $9M deal a week after the Chicago Bears allowed him to become a free agent. Other teams were interested in Hester, who has returned five kickoffs and 13 punts for touchdowns in his spectacular career.

“Atlanta,” Hester told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “at the end of the day, was the team that showed the most interest. It’s a winning program. I looked at them as a team that I know is going to have a good season. . .last year was a little downfall for these guys because injuries occurred. This is a playoff team without any injuries, so I knew it was a big chance of us … first of all making the playoffs and hopefully competing for the Super Bowl. That played a big factor.”

The Falcons were 10th and 20th in kickoff and punt return averages, respectively, last season. Hester’s briliance as a return man promises to give Atlanta a significant boost.

Hester is also a talented receiver, with his speed creating a threat for the long ball. He has 217 receptions career receptions for 2,807 yards with 14 touchdowns. But he made his mark as a return man, gaining 3,241 yards on 264 punt returns, with his 12.3 yards per return ranking fifth in NFL history. He has gained 5,504 yards and five touchdowns on 222 career kickoff returns.

He does not seem to have lost his big-play ability. To wit: Last season, he led the NFL in total return yards with 1,692 and kickoff return yards with 1,436. Among his other accolades, Hester was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team by the Associated Press for the 2000s; he was the first player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown—92 yards in Super Bowl XLI.

Hester also set an NFL record with six return touchdowns in his rookie season and is one of six players in NFL history to return two kickoffs for scores in the same game, on Dec. 11, 2006.

 

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