An interesting subject was brought up for debate on Twitter this week by Cane fan/Twitter user @83_87_89_91_01 (great name, by the way):
What was your favorite Devin Hester moment? pic.twitter.com/AsbuaeAJPV— GO ‘CANES! (@83_87_89_91_01) February 23, 2021
It’s such a simple question, but when you’re asking it about a player who has lived to create unforgettable, impact moments, well....it makes you think. The University of Miami football program has a long and proud history, replete with All-Americans, NFL All-Pros, and Pro Football Hall of Famers. The 80s, 90s, and early 2000s teams boasted squads with a comically-ridiculous level of athletic ability. That all being said, out of all that talent, the most explosive player in the history of the program is Devin Hester, bar none, end of story. At least to me. Which is why his moments have meant so much. They were often game-changing, momentum-swinging plays on big stages. He was a true X-factor. With that all in mind, here’s my top five:
5) Blocked field goal against FSU in 2004.
Folks, Miami loses this game if not for Hester’s block, and Chris Rix doesn’t go o-fer against Miami in his career. But Hester did, and what an effort. With 4 minutes left and in chip shot range for Xavier Beitia to atone for his 2002 game-losing miss, FSU was set to end its four years of misery at the hands of the Canes. Instead, Hester got a lightning-quick burst off the edge, dove across, and deflected the kick, sending it fluttering short of the end zone.
You all know the rest. Miami eventually drove down the field, with Brock Berlin hitting Sinorice Moss for the game-tying touchdown. After forcing a Chris Rix fumble in overtime, Frank Gore broke free and ended the game.
But none of this happens if Hester doesn’t get a hand on Beitia’s kick.
4) Hester and the Bears “are who we thought they were!”
I mean, who doesn’t remember this legendary presser meltdown? After all, the cherry on top of the humble pie served to Denny Green and the Cardinals was one Devin Hester. After trailing 23-3, the Bears got back into the game on the strength of two defensive touchdowns. The Cardinals completed the shoot-thyself-in-the-foot trifecta by punting to Hester, who weaved through opponents on the way to an 83-yard touchdown and the winning points.
It might not have been as chaotic, wild, or electric as some others, but it was on a big stage, and boy, it was a huge play, as the Bears would go on to the Super Bowl that season. It was also part of a 21-point comeback over the last 15+ minutes of the game.
3) Hester bedevils Duke
I mean, buddy. The shimmy, followed by reversing field and running towards his own end zone, breaking through a bearhug tackle and bouncing off another defender, reversing field, and beating everyone to the end zone. I know this one didn’t count, but I’m not sure there’s a moment that captured Hester’s superior combination of strength, speed, and vision better than this one play. An all-timer.
2) Welcome to Super Bowl XLI
In the history of the biggest game in all of sports, there had never been an opening kickoff returned for a touchdown. That all changed when rookie Devin Hester took the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI, let the wall settle, cut back and through the front line of Colts coverage players, and raced to paydirt. In what turned out to be a relatively forgettable Super Bowl (especially if you’re a Bears fan), Hester delivered the highlight of the game, and probably one of the more memorable moments in the big game of the decade. It’s undoubtedly the signature moment in his professional career and one that hopefully we’ll see replayed eventually during presentation in his honor in Canton, OH.
1) Hester burns the Gators in the Orange Bowl
Let’s get real....is there another option besides this one? Being the first game at the Orange Bowl between the hated rivals since 1987, the rabid excitement and vitriol was palpable in the evening air at the Orange Bowl. They brought in bleachers for the East end zone, for God’s sakes.
In any event, when this happened to open the game, I’ve never heard a Miami crowd louder (including 2017 Notre Dame Bandy pick-six)...
Everyone was tackling everyone in the upper deck where we were sitting. Hester took his helmet off and let everyone know what was up, which (even though it was a penalty) even added more to the lure of the moment. It was unbelievable play in what turned out to be the most unbelievable game in the history of the program, with Miami rallying from 33-10 down to knock off the Gators 38-33.
(Honorable mention: 2004 punt return vs. Louisville. I knew many of you would include this in your list, and it’s more than worthy of consideration. I just had 5 spots already. Let’s hear your lists!)