Devin Hester, best return man in NFL history, announces retirement

Devin Hester, the NFL's career leader in combined kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns, announced his retirement via Twitter on Tuesday.

"I have good news and bad news," he said in a statement. "Good news: Commissioner Goodell, you can put the kickoff back at the 30. Bad news: Y'all will have to find a new favorite returner."

Hester, 35, finishes his career with 14 punt returns for touchdowns --also the best in NFL history -- and five TDs on kickoff returns.

Considered the best return man in the NFL for many years, Hester made four Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro three times.

He played for Baltimore and Seattle last season but hadn't played this year. He hinted in January, after the Seahawks were eliminated from the postseason, that he had played his final NFL game.

As recently as 2014 with Atlanta, he led the league with 1,128 kickoff return yards.

Hester made his name with the Chicago Bears. The University of Miami product led the league in punt-return yards and touchdowns (three) during his rookie season in 2006. He played eight years with the Bears.

"To all of the Bears fans, you brought me in and made a Florida boy feel at home in the Midwest from Day 1," Hester wrote in his statement. "I grew into a man, built a family, and became who I am today in the city of Chicago. I'll always remember the noise y'all made whenever I hit open turf at Soldier [Field] -- never heard anything quite like it.

"I'd also especially like to thank Coach Lovie Smith for taking a chance on me in the draft and getting this whole thing started."

Smith, now the coach at the University of Illinois, tweeted his appreciation for Hester in return.

Besides returning kicks and punts, Hester was a defensive back at Miami, but after his rookie year, the Bears used him as a receiver. In 2009, he made 57 catches for 757 yards and three TDs. He finished his career with 16 receiving touchdowns.

Hester's spectacular rookie year including running back two kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns. He also returned a missed field goal 108 yards against the New York Giants. Hester's crowning moment came in the Super Bowl in Miami. Hester caught Adam Vinatieri's kickoff, turned right toward the middle, burst through a wave of defenders and sprinted toward history, becoming only the eighth player to score a touchdown that way in the NFL's biggest game.

In his post, Hester also thanked his family and all of the fans, coaches and teammates he had in Atlanta, Baltimore and Seattle.

"Hopefully next time I see y'all it'll be in Canton," Hester concluded, acknowledging that he has a solid chance to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Several former teammates expressed their support for Hester. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt recalled rooting for Miami when he was in high school and meeting Hester in the Atlanta airport.

"When I was in HS, I was a huge Canes fan and I saw Devin Hester in the ATL airport one time," Watt tweeted. "1st time ever asking someone famous for a photo. He was cool, took the photo and it was awesome. Congrats on a great career @D-Hest23 and thanks for the memories!"

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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