Devin Hester officially hung up his cleats on Tuesday, ending an 11-year career in which he redefined what it means to be a returner on special teams.
Hester rewrote the record books, setting the all-time record with 20 return touchdowns (including the playoffs). He famously took the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI to the house, but he was most effective as a punt returner, scoring 14 TDs.
With the electric Hester in the news, Travis Benjamin and Desmond King paid homage to the potential Hall of Famer. Both of the Bolts’ primary returners said they’ve never seen anyone like the former Bears great.
However, for Benjamin, his relationship with Hester runs deeper.
“Just growing up knowing he grew up 30 minutes away from me in West Palm Beach, watching him play in high school for one of our rivals, he always made plays growing up,” he said. “Watching him go to Miami and have the same success there and the NFL, I always wanted to be compared to Devin Hester. He absolutely made me want to be a returner. When he touched the ball back that deep, you couldn’t wait to watch him get the ball. When I went to Miami, knowing he went there, when I was back there, I’d try to match his play.”
Benjamin has met Hester a bunch over the years.
“We’re from the same place, so whenever we see each other, it feels like home.”
On the other hand, King rues the fact he never got to play in the NFL at the same time as one of his favorite players.
“Watching Devin Hester, he was that guy who could be electric at any moment of the game,” the rookie said. “He was so iconic as a returner. He inspired me. I watched him growing up a lot, even at Miami as well. It’s weird to see him not play anymore.”
King even went so far as to say he may not have ever been a returner if not for watching Hester.
“Whenever I’d watch him return kicks, I wanted to *be *him. I remember watching him return that one in the Super Bowl on the couch, and it was like, ‘Damn. Look at him! He just did that.’ He just inspired me to be a returner, but also, to go out there and do what I can.”