In many, many ways, the signing of Devin Hester back in 2014 made no sense for the Falcons. They were a team fresh off a disappointing season trying to make a splash, but they signed a 32-year-old receiver and special teamer at a time when the NFL was busily trying to make returns less valuable. It looked at the time—and certainly looks with the advantage of hindsight—like a dumb move at the end of the increasingly desperate Mike Smith era.
But yet for one glorious season, at least, the move worked out extremely well. That’s because a 32-year-old Devin Hester was still a useful receiver and Hall of Fame-caliber returner, and he had a masterpiece or two left in him. He finished that year with 18 receptions for 240 yards and two touchdowns, six rushes for 36 yards and another touchdown, a punt return touchdown and some very nice returns, and one masterful game where he returned a punt for 62 yards and ran in a 20 yard touchdown against the Buccaneers in a 56-14 thumping. It was, all-in-all, a solid year.
Hester quickly fell out of favor under the new coaching staff, but he made his mark in Atlanta. And more importantly, he made his mark on the NFL over his decade in the league, putting together one of the great special teams careers in league history and compiling an astonishing 14 touchdowns on returns. If he’s headed to Canton someday, no one will be surprised, and we were lucky to see him work a little magic in Atlanta.