Stud of the Week: Devin Hester

What else can possibly be said about the impact of rookie return man Devin Hester? Every time you think he's tapped out of highlight-reel plays, he comes back with another ... and then another. Hester returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Rams on Monday Night Football and for the second consecutive game is the Bear Report Stud of the Week.

The Bears turned their kickoff return duties over to rookie extraordinaire Devin Hester for the first time in Week 14, but not even the most eternal Chicago optimist could have seen this coming.

Heading into Monday night's prime time tilt with the St. Louis Rams, there had been a grand total of six kickoffs returned for touchdowns in the NFL this season. Justin Miller of the Jets was the only player in the league to do it more than once, and more celebrated return demons like Kansas City's Dante Hall and Atlanta's Allen Rossum were yet to accomplish the feat. Apparently, Hester didn't get the memo.

The rookie out of Miami returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against the Rams, the first from 94 yards out and the second from 96. Hester set a record in the process, becoming the first player in NFL history to have six return TDs in a single season. He had already scored three times on punt returns and even brought back a missed field goal 108 yards to paydirt in Week 10 against the Giants.

For the second consecutive game and in his typical electrifying fashion, Hester is the Bear Report Stud of the Week.

Hester would lead the league in kickoff return average with his mark of 35.1 yards, but he only has 10 attempts and does not qualify. He only had one chance to return a punt in Monday's game, but he did break loose and got 21 yards. Hester continues to pace the NFL in punt return average with 14.4 yards on a league-leading 36 tries.

There have been a total of 20 kickoffs and punts taken back for scores so far in 2006, and Hester is responsible for five of them. The Bears would arguably have the best special teams in the NFL even without Hester, but with the former Hurricane back there, the Monsters of the Midway have the kind of weapon in waiting that keeps opposing coaches awake at night. Despite not starting one game on either offense or defense this season, Hester is making a case for Rookie of the Year and has made every bit the impact Reggie Bush has in New Orleans and Vince Young has in Tennessee.

Perhaps not since Gale Sayers in 1965 have the Bears had a first-year player with this kind of ability to take your breath away from anywhere on the field.

JC

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