Former Atlanta Falcons receiver would have set history with new kick-off rules

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons / Scott Cunningham/GettyImages

Devin Hester is remembered more for his time with the Chicago Bears than the Atlanta Falcons. This is more than fair when you consider the returns he had with the Bears that included an iconic Super Bowl moment. Hester was the greatest punt returner in league history tacking back 14 punts for touchdowns and adding in 5 kick-off returns. What made him so lethal is exactly what teams will be searching for under the new kick-off rule.

Only the kicker and returner are going to be able to get running starts with the new kick-off play. The rest of the field will line and will be too close together to get a running start before meeting blockers or the kick returner.

Former Atlanta Falcon Cordarrelle Patterson is the current all-time kick-off touchdown leader with 9 in his career. Heading to Pittsburgh, Patterson has a chance to further history in the 2024 season.

However, it is easy to make the argument that it would be Devin Hester and not Patterson who set history with this new setup. Imagine Hester in his prime being given a running start needing to only make one man miss to break a long play.

For well-coached teams with strong blockers, this is the type of setup that they will have. What kicker would have a prayer of stopping Hester in the open field? While Hester's playing days are far behind him it is interesting to look at the new play and consider how it could have changed history if instituted a bit sooner.

Hester spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons with Atlanta before spending his final year with the Ravens and Seahawks. Hester's legacy remains fascinating and shows why the kick-off play had to be brought back and altered.

As the season nears how teams prepare and adjust for the new play should be fascinating for a league that is always adjusting.