Athlete or Football Player?

The Bears wanted to increase team speed and Devin Hester can definitely bring that to Chicago. The problem is what position will he play for the Bears over the long haul?

During three years at Miami, Hester contributed in all three phases of the game. In some ways his supreme athletic ability hindered his development. He never stuck with a position or side of the ball long enough to improve.

Even Miami Coach Larry Coker had a hard time understanding where best to use Hester.

"Devin is a little bit of a mystery," Coker said. "He never really established himself at a position."

Hester's natural ability allowed him to succeed in college, but sound technique is needed in the NFL. Although he should immediately be able to contribute on special teams in the return game, his role on defense is not as clear because what is perceived as a lack of fundamentals.

"The Bears took a risk and hopefully Devin will do well, whether it be on offense or defense," Coker said. "That's what NFL teams were questioning. He certainly has an opportunity to be a great NFL player once he gets established."

Initially the Bears will play Hester at cornerback, but getting the ball in his hands on offense will be tempting.

"You could make the case for saying we took him as an athlete," said director of college scouting Greg Gabriel. "He can play offense, he can play defense, he can return. He's a great football player, he's very, very dangerous, he's real fast, he's got pretty good corner skills in limited playing time."

In 2004, Hester scored a touchdown four different ways: punt return, kickoff return, rushing, and returning a block punt. After being thrown into the defensive mix in the middle of the season, he primarily played nickel back. He was a quick study however, able to snatch four interceptions on the year while playing just 30 percent of the defensive snaps.

At one point during the 2005 season, Scout.com rated Hester as the No. 1 cornerback. A lackluster campaign saw him finish with just one interception and 11 tackles in a reserve role as a junior.

Hester doesn't lack for confidence and part of the reason is one of his childhood idols. He regularly talks to the greatest to play the position - Deion Sanders. Since first coming in contact with Sanders as a sophomore, Hester has built a relationship with his him in which the two talk three times a week.

"He tells me to just keep my head up and not let the outside influences hurt what you got going on in the field," Hester said. "He just talks me through life. The things he experienced in college and things I should and should not do.

"It is like a brotherhood type of conversation. We just talk and see how each other's day went, what is going on, and if either of us has any problems. We mainly talk about how life is going."

The Bears will have found a steal in Hester if he can be 10 percent of the player Sanders became.


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