KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kick return specialist Devin Hester retired this week after a record-setting career, and Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub probably understands Hester better than any other coach in the league.
“He was a great player,” Toub said. “Five years from now, if he doesn’t get in the Hall of Fame, it would be a shame.”
Toub coached special teams for the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012. Many draft experts though the Bears made a reach selecting Hester in the second round of the 2006 draft.
“We went out and reached for a guy basically, they did a good job of going and getting him in the second round,” Toub said of Chicago’s scouting department and front office. “Having a guy, just a punt returner/kick returner guy to draft him in the second round was outside the box thinking, and they did a real good job with that.”
Teams continuing seeking players with Hester’s big-play ability in the return game. The Chiefs selected Tyreek Hill in the fifth-round of the 2016 draft with hopes he could follow the same track. Toub often reviewed game film of Hester with Hill last season as a rookie.
“Thing thing with Devin and me obviously is speed,” Hill said. “I can’t really compare myself to him yet. He’s done a great job throughout his whole career.”
Just as Hill made an immediate impact as returner last season as a rookie, Hester burst on the scene quickly as a rookie. He returned six kicks for touchdowns in his first season, emerging as a transformational player in the NFL with 20 touchdowns on kick returns in his career.
“There’s no question having a guy like Devin made everybody have a returner after that,” Toub said. “He performed on the field and now everybody has to have a returner. He changed the game that way. He put special teams on the map as far as how you can win games on special teams and I think everybody across the league has gone to that because of him.”
Toub said Hester possessed field vision and strength that fueled his success beyond simply displaying world-class speed.
“He could run over you if needed to,” Toub said. “Then his ability to catch tough punts in a crowd, going backwards and over his shoulder. You couldn’t kick away from him.”
Hill sees his style as more elusive than running through tackles, comparable to former Chiefs return specialist Dante Hall.
“Devin was more of a stronger returner breaking tackles and running through arm tackles,” Hill said.
Toub introduced Hill to Hester when the Chiefs drafted him, and the rookie learned much from their conversations. As great as Hester played on the field, Hill said he is an even better person away from the game.
“He told me to just listen to Toub and if you see a crease, hit it,” Hill said. “In the NFL you don’t get many creases and it’s tough. That’s the best advice he ever gave me.”
Hill remains early in his career but Toub still sees many similarities between his two pupils.
“Ty has a lot of talent same things that Devin does where teams are kicking away from him the same,” Toub said. “It’s like déjà vu all over again. The same thing that happened in Chicago is happening here.”