Getting to Know: Devin Hester

University of Miami junior Devin Hester could prove to be one of the steals of the draft. Known for his speed, sure hands and versatility, Hester could become a triple threat in Chicago.

At 5-10,188-pounds, Devin Hester could be the perfect physical package for the Bears return game. His combine 40 speed was 4.42 and improved that to 4.36 during a personal workout. Hester himself says that can be improved upon well before the start of the regular season.

The pre-draft word on Hester was a raw talent who, with refined technique with coaching, had the potential to become an electrifying playmaker. Hester only wants the opportunity to demonstrate what he can do.

"I know that some media people said that I wasn't ready, that I needed one more year at Miami, but I know in my heart that this is the right time for me," Hester said.

Hester had a more compelling reason than most to head to the pros and receive the kind of salary that early round draft picks customarily enjoy. His family's home in Riviera Beach Florida had been directly in the path of last October's hurricane.

"It was bad," Hester said. "Like most of our neighbors, my mother thought it would be OK to stay at home when the storm hit. There had been some warnings the year before that we'd get hit but that never happened. We thought it would be the same situation this time around, it's difficult to evacuate because where are you going to go? Nobody wants to sit in a high school gym for a week or two. That's really a last resort."

The storm ripped the roof off of the structure with all of Hester's family inside. Although no one was injured, the damage to the interior of the home was extensive and long lasting.

"The inside of the house was completely flooded for about a month," Hester said. "All our possessions were ruined, the furniture, the rugs, everything. I couldn't believe it. Then you get the mold problem once the water has receded. The home was unlivable. We also lost our cars. How was my mother going to get around without a car?

"I just didn't see any way that I could pass up a chance to contribute some income sooner rather than later. The first thing I'm going to do with my draft bonus when I get it is to buy my mother a new home and a car. I don't need anything for myself. I just want to see her safe and comfortable."

Hester is also receiving some welcome advice from Deion Sanders, on what he can do with his future NFL salary.

"Deion is my man," Hester said. "He took an interest in my career and started text messaging me a while ago. We talk about a lot of things related to football and to life. He doesn't give me specifics about playing, at least not yet. We talk more about planning for the future and about handling pressure. I think he's going to be a tremendous help in easing my transition from Miami to the pros."

At Miami Hester shifted from position to position for the Hurricanes, starting on both offense and defense in the same game against Clemson in 2004. However, the Bears see him as a cornerback, at least for now. And that's fine with the rookie who seemed eager to fulfill any role that his coaches might request.

"My ideal position? Any place I can contribute" Hester said. "I want to be able to do good things for this team. If the coaches feel that is where I'd be best, then you can be sure that I'll do everything in my power to fulfill that role."

Hester was one of the youngest players to come out of the draft, but he doesn't feel that an extra year of college ball would have made him more desirable.

"I discussed this at length with my coach (Larry Coker) and with my family," Hester said. "We felt that my development as a player was far enough along that I could be a valuable addition to one of the NFL teams. Chicago was our first choice from the beginning and I'm thrilled that they selected me."

What Hester liked most about the Bears was the family atmosphere of the team.

"I felt that this would be a very supportive environment for me," Hester said. "Everything I thought I would find here is true. The coaches look out for their players and the players seem to look out for each other. That's the kind of team I've always seen myself becoming a part of."

When asked about the Chicago weather, which is nothing like what Hester is accustomed to in Miami, the rookie just laughed.

"Rain, snow, cold, bring it on," Hester said. "I'm so happy to be here, I don't care how cold it gets."

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