Devin Hester might have retired earlier this week, but his ability (and spirit) are alive and well in the NFL through Tyreek Hill.
Earlier this week, Devin Hester decided to call it quits. After 11 seasons in the National Football League, one of the most electric and exciting returners of all time was finished putting the “special” in special teams.
One man who knew Hester’s ability and instincts intimately is Dave Toub, the special teams coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. At the time of Hester’s prime, he served in the same role in Chicago for the Bears, where Hester did most of his damage against other teams, before coming to the Chiefs in 2013 to join Andy Reid’s new staff.
When speaking to the media on Wednesday, Toub was asked the obvious questions about his former Pro Bowl returner given the recent retirement, and Toub paid tribute to Hester’s tremendous talents—as he should. But then he also gave a comparison that seems obvious and yet interesting, linking Tyreek Hill to Hester by saying it’s like “déjà vu all over again.”
"Ty has a lot of talent, the same things that Devin does. Then teams are kicking away from him, same. It’s like déjà vu all over again. The same thing that happened in Chicago is the same thing that is happening here."
Fortunately for the Chiefs, Hill has provided much more than a special teams punch, although that alone can certainly change the tide in a game. While Hester was a nice receiver, he could never turn the corner to be the team’s vertical threat as a No. 1 option the way that Hill has transformed in year two. In his best season as a receiver, Hester had 57 catches for 757 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Hill, on the other hand, has blossomed as the Chiefs had hoped when they let Jeremy Maclin walk and failed to sign anyone else to replace him. The young receivers on the roster have done exactly what the team’s front office had hoped, allowing Tyreek Hill to bloom over the top and emerging players like Albert Wilson, Chris Conley and DeMarcus Robinson to fight over reps and earn their stripes. Hill, with three games left, is only 14 yards shy of 1,000 on the year.
In the return game, at least on punts, Chiefs fans should be very thankful for Hill’s presence. For those who remember Hester in his prime, you’ll know fans held their breath on both sides every time the ball was kicked. Here’s hoping Hill’s special teams impact can remain in place even as he becomes more valuable on offense.