Either Matt Millen or Steve Young said something last night during the MNF post-game show that was actually astute. (I know, shocking right?) I don’t remember which one it was, but one of them said that Devin Hester is one of the ten transcendent athletes that fans and other great athletes alike will stop and watch. Millen/Young then went onto explain that part of what makes Hester such a surreal talent is how easy he makes what he does look.
And what is it that Devin Hester does? Well, he returns kicks better than anyone in the history of football. If you don’t believe me, just look at the numbers: Hester has 14 combined kickoff and punt return TDs…and this is only his 5th season in the NFL! The guy whose record he broke last night – Brian Mitchell – played in the NFL three times as long.
But what I learned while watching Devin Hester’s press conference last night is that his sublime talent and peerless return ability are not the most impressive traits about him. What makes Hester even more special than you might realize is his incredible humility. You will after you watch this video.
Note: this is the only video I’ve been able to find so far of Hester’s press conference. If you know where the extended press conference is hosted, please provide a link in the comment section. The whole thing really is worth watching.
Update: Extended video located. See bottom of post.
The ESPN video above doesn’t really do Hester’s press conference justice. Immediately upon getting to the podium, before even being asked a question, he thanked his teammates and coaches profusely and said he wished they were up at the podium getting all the glory. Later, he actually choked up when talking about the teamwork breaking the record had taken, and how his teammates helped him to prove all his naysayers wrong. Hester is a quiet, understated individual when he talks, but his words and emotion were powerful…and I don’t even like the Bears.
Look, I don’t want to make too big a deal of this. Devin Hester broke a return record and then was humble during his press conference. He didn’t cure cancer. But when considered against the din of arrogance and self-importance that has come to define big time sports these days, Hester’s humility immediately after such a great personal feat was affecting. It makes him eminently likable, and it shows younger athletes exactly how an athlete in a team sport should act and how they should consider their role.
When I’m not messing around here at MSF, I mentor a young football player with really special running back skills who, if he stays humble and works hard, has a lot of potential. I talk with him all the time about giving credit to his offensive line and understanding that football is a team game and that he’s nothing without the other 10 guys. When I say it though, it doesn’t really have a huge impact. I’m just a chubby blogger over a decade removed from my last football game. When a guy like Devin Hester does it, however, it means something. And I appreciate Hester providing such a clear example of how an athlete can be exceptionally talented while also staying completely grounded.
I’d always appreciated Devin Hester’s talent before last night, but now I am officially a fan.
Congratulations on a great achievement Devin, and thank you for providing such a great example for all of us who coach and mentor young football players. You could return 100 more returns for touchdowns, and your humility would still be the most special thing about you. In this day and age, that’s really saying something.
Update: Thanks to Twitter user BxBomber12 for sending me the link to the video below. The quality isn’t great, but it shows the full press conference.