An endorsement from the ‘Comet’

By Fred Mitchell
Updated: January 5, 2011

CHICAGO — Former Bears Hall of Fame halfback and kick returner Gale Sayers feels Devin Hester already is worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hester, in his fifth season with the Bears, already owns the NFL record for combined punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns with 14 (10 punts and four kickoffs). “Devin Hester deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, no question about it. He has a chance to get there. And more than likely, he probably will,” Sayers told the Tribune on Tuesday via phone from Lawrence, Kan., where he starred in the early ’60s at the University of Kansas.
Sayers, whose NFL career was cut short after six seasons because of knee injuries, was an elusive running back from scrimmage, and also returned kickoffs and punts with abandon.

He also averaged 30.56 yards on 91 kick returns during his career (1965-71) for 6 TDs and an all-time best touchdown-per-return ratio of .0659 percent. Hester has returned 262 kicks for his 14 TDs (.0534).

“I think I was probably the first (Hall of Fame) running back to return punts and kickoffs and run from the line of scrimmage,” said Sayers, who was the Hall’s youngest-ever inductee at the age of 34 in 1977. “I had a good career rushing with the football, too, and scoring touchdowns (22 as a rookie). (Hester) is only doing kick returns (although he is also a wide receiver) and he is having a hell of a career.”

“No doubt, he will probably go into the Hall of Fame.”

Sayers feels the Pro Football Hall of Fame should expand its scope to include more specialists who have been at the top of their profession.

Currently, Jan Stenerud is the only pure kicker in the Hall of Fame. And previous kick return stars such as Brian Mitchell and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson are not included. “To me, Ray Guy should be in the Hall of Fame,” Sayers said.

“I mean, he killed the ball. He was unbelievable. And he played for a number of years (1973-86 as a seven-time Pro Bowler) and it seemed like every year (with a career average of 42.4) he led the league in punting.”