Deion Sanders and Devin Hester are the two best return men to ever play the game of football. Sanders, a former Atlanta Falcon held the record of most career touchdown returns with 19. This record withstood for quite some time until Hester eclipsed the mark in 2014 with a 62-yard punt return touchdown in week three.
There is no doubt that Sanders is one of the most electrifying players in NFL history, but was he a better return man than Hester? That is a question that is very difficult to answer. Sanders played cornerback throughout his NFL career while Hester has played both corner and wide receiver.
January 26, 2014; Honolulu, HI, USA; Team Sanders alumni captain Deion Sanders before the 2014 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
All 20 of Hester’s return touchdowns have come via the punt return or kickoff return while nine of Sanders’ 19 came via the pick six. Sanders managed to find the end zone just six times as a punt returner while Hester has 14 of them. Hester has six carer kick return touchdowns to Sanders’ three and still has time to add more to his list.
Where the two men differ is their time spent playing their normal position. Hester has never made a name for himself as a defensive player nor offensive player. He is strictly known for his returning capabilities. Sanders on the other hand was known as a very dangerous corner and dared quarterbacks to throw his way. Sanders has 53 career interceptions and is ranked as the 34th best player of all time.
When it comes to returning the football, Hester is the best to ever do it. He went two years while with the Chicago Bears with hardly any opportunities to return it. Teams were that scared to kick him the ball. Outside of his record breaking run, Hester’s most iconic return might of been one of his first. As a rookie in 2006, Hester took the opening kickoff to the house while playing in the Superbowl. On top of that, Hester also has a 108-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown on his resume.
What is great about this debate is the two greatest return men in NFL history played for the Falcons at one point. Sanders had 24 interceptions while with the Falcons, three of which were returned for touchdowns. He also had all three of his kick return touchdowns come in a Falcons uniform as well as two of his six punt return touchdowns.
While Hester has only one returned touchdown as a member of the Falcons, it was the most historic, the one to beat his mentor, Sanders with him in attendance. Sanders believes that Hester is a sure fire hall of famer and why wouldn’t he be. The best returner of all time deserves a special place in Canton.