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Q&A With Devin Hester: Hall Of Fame, Justin Fields' Outlook, Partnership With Gatorade

Devin Hester running with the football.

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears runs out of the "wildcat" formation pursued by Andre Carter #99 of the Washington Redskins at Soldier Field on October 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Devin Hester holds the record for most return touchdowns in NFL history, and eventually, he’ll be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of it. Until then, the former All-Pro is helping out his community.

Hester has teamed up with Gatorade to surprise the football team at Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami, Florida. He presented a $25,000 grant that’ll go towards gym renovations and football equipment.

We caught up with Devin Hester to discuss his NFL career, the current state of the Bears and his partnership with Gatorade.

Devin Hester working with Gatorade.

The Spun: Can you tell us what you’re doing with Gatorade?

Devin Hester: So, I’m here at Booker T. Washington High School to partner up with Gatorade. We’re giving these guys a grant to help out with the gym, as well as football equipment.

The Spun: Why was it important for you to partner with Gatorade to give back to the community?

DH: It’s very important, especially here [in Florida], because this is where I grew up. They supported me when I was in high school and college. It feels great to be back and give back to this community.

The Spun: Bears fans are eagerly waiting for the day you’re officially inducted into the Hall of Fame. Do you feel the same way?

DH: Last year was my first year experiencing it. To make it all the way to the final round of cuts was a good experience. I would’ve loved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but right now, I’m just taking it all in and enjoying it. I’m just blessed to have a chance at making the Hall of Fame.

The Spun: There has been a lot of talk about whether or not you should’ve been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Does that matter much to you?

DH: As I think about it, making it as a top-10 finalist really gives you confidence that it’ll happen sooner or later. I feel very confident I’ll make it this upcoming year. I’m just waiting for that call.

The Spun: Speaking of the Bears, you spent a lot of years at Soldier Field. Would you be disappointed to see the franchise build a new stadium?

DH: It’d be a bittersweet thing. I like it there in downtown Chicago. When you bring up the city of Chicago, you think of downtown. To be at Soldier Field for nine years was awesome. It was always a sight to see that stadium in the middle of the city. I don’t know how it’ll look in another location.

The Spun: Have you been keeping up with the Bears? And if so, what are your thoughts on Justin Fields’ outlook?

DH: I think you see that he gets better with more reps. I do strongly feel that Chicago needs to surround him with more weapons. I think the play-calling needs to use him in a way where he’s comfortable. I don’t know if it’s the right offensive scheme for him. But I do know that when you invest in a quarterback in the first round, you need to meet in the middle. When I say that, I mean you need to utilize what he’s been blessed with. You can’t take his special traits away from him. You knew what you were getting when you drafted him. Now, you need to find a scheme that best fits with his skillset.

The Spun: It feels like there are no longer elite kick returners in the NFL. Do you feel like that’s the price you pay when the kickoffs are moved up to the 35-yard line?

DH: I think once they put in the “Devin Hester Rule,” it changed the kickoff. The punt return opportunities are still there - you just need to find a guy who can take it the distance. But people don’t realize just how hard it is to return punts and kickoffs. I hate to say it, but some people got spoiled watching me, Josh Cribbs, Leon Washington and Percy Harvin making kick returns look easy in the 2000s. We made it look like it was second nature. Now, you could go several weeks with maybe just one or two kick return touchdowns. I hope we can get back to that though.

The Spun: It’s been a while since Miami has been considered a national title contender. Are you a bit surprised by that?

DH: Most definitely, especially being down in the south where there are a lot of great athletes. A lot of them are going to Alabama, Georgia, LSU and those type of schools. It’s so hard to keep those athletes home. Back in the day, every four-star or five-star recruit would stay in the state. Florida, Florida State and Miami would keep those recruits at home. I think that’s what really hurts the program.

The Spun: You’ve shown a lot of passion for youth football. Is that what you’re focused on right now?

DH: I spend all my time coaching youth football, and it’s so easy because I have a son who has a passion for it. It allows me to go help out the team, as well as keep myself busy and young. It really gives me something to look forward to.

The Spun: This might be a no-brainer here, but I’d imagine your favorite kickoff return touchdown was the one from Super Bowl XLI?

DH: Yes, most definitely [laughs]. It’s the Super Bowl touchdown.

Devin Hester finished his career with 20 return touchdowns. He also made an impact as a wide receiver, hauling in 255 passes for 3,311 yards.

The NFL recognized Hester for his accomplishments, placing him on the 2010s All-Decade Team and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Make no mistake about it, there’s a spot in Canton waiting for Hester.  

You can read more of our interviews with athletes and media stars here.