Every so often, some account on Twitter will post something that ranks their top-10 most exciting players in college football history. Recently I saw one, and it had players like Reggie Bush and Vince Young on there, rightfully so. However, there was one name that was glaringly left on this list. I kept going through the 10 players, and Devin Hester was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Man I feel bad for the kids that didn’t get to see Devin Hester play football. That dude was so special. Someone that had a chance to take it to the house every time he touched the ball— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 31, 2020
Because Hester was so successful in the NFL and became the greatest return man in the history of pro football, people sometimes forget about his college career at Miami. While he was with the Hurricanes, Hester had you on the edge of your seat. Hester was the kind of player where you waited to go to the bathroom because he was about to receive a punt or kickoff.
Still to this day, the greatest football play I have ever seen, either in person or on the television, came from Devin Hester. It was 2005, and the Hurricanes were hosting the lowly Duke Blue Devils. My father and I were sitting in about the 60th row in the Orange Bowl, it was 24-0 Miami in the second quarter, and Duke was set to punt with Hester to return. To try and give this play a recap with my own words would be an injustice to the greatness of the return. You simply have to watch it.
Hesters return against Duke is still one of the greatest football plays I’ve ever seen https://t.co/9Qxz2POKld pic.twitter.com/NOQX9T7u4Y— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) February 26, 2020
I sat there as a 5th grader, in the Orange Bowl, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I had seen Hester make plays through my TV before, but now to see it live in person, I felt like I was apart of sports history being in that stadium. Immediately after that game, right outside the OB, my father bought me a Hester jersey.
But the crazy thing is, the return against Duke wasn't even his greatest moment as a Hurricane. No, no, no. That moment came in his very first college game. September of 2003, primetime in the OB against the Florida Gators. Opening kickoff, Hester takes it 97-yards for a touchdown.
Kicking off Florida Hate Week with Devin Hester's opening kickoff return against the Gators in his first college home game. pic.twitter.com/ogsM9IZhcG— Brody Logan (@BrodyLogan) August 19, 2019
2003 wasn’t the last time Hester would torture the Gators either. The following year in the Peach Bowl, Hester scooped up a blocked field goal, proceeding to take all the way for a touchdown. As he neared the goal-line, Hester started his Deion Sanders celebration as he high-stepped into the end zone.
Watching Hester play football truly was a privilege, and he had the ability to change a game like few people I have ever seen. Perfect example was against Louisville in 2004. Miami was trailing the Cardinals 31-27 mid-way through the fourth quarter. You could sense something was coming with #4 back there ready to return, and there he went. The words of Mike Tirico are ones that I'll never forget as long as I live, “Hester from the 22, picking up blocks, he hit the middle hard! Devin Hester the punter to beat....He beat him! The Miami Hurricanes take the lead!”
It's Miami Louisville week, so here's Devin Hester snatching the Cards punter's ankles without losing speed pic.twitter.com/rMCPhQSARj— Brody Logan (@BrodyLogan) November 6, 2019
If the Hurricanes ever needed to prove a point, Hester was the guy to do it. 2004 at NC State, place is rocking right before the opening kickoff, 75,000 thousand Wolfpack fans are deafening, hoping they can knock off the #3 Hurricanes. NC State kicks off and the game is underway, and all Hester does is take it 105-yards for a touchdown. The crowd goes quiet. The game was over at that point.
At a program that has had so much talent come through, both at Miami and then in the NFL, Hester is still regarded as one of the greatest Hurricanes ever to play at UM. From 2003 to 2005, Hester dazzled the eyes of fans, and kept opposing head coaches awake at night, wondering whether they were going to kick to him.
Another Devin Hester highlight for ya pic.twitter.com/MotVGsq9GR— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) June 11, 2019
The greatest part about Hester, is that he went to the NFL, and became not just a good return man, but the greatest return man in the history of professional football, and will one day be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Devin Hester at the Super Bowl. It’s a Canes thing pic.twitter.com/jalabqS4QP— Mamba Marsh (@hurricanesmarsh) January 31, 2020
And when he does get that jacket and is giving his speech at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Hurricanes fans will be saying, “I remember when he returned that kick against Florida as a freshman.”