Devin Hester sets NFL return record

Updated: December 21, 2010, 9:38 AM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Chicago Bears' Devin Hester finally set the NFL record for combined return touchdowns when he scored on a 64-yard punt return in the third quarter of a 40-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Having entered the game only one return touchdown away shy of Brian Mitchell's NFL record, Hester notched yet another "almost" score to his dossier when he fielded the opening kickoff of the second half from the 15, and zipped up the field for 79 yards only to be taken down by Heath Farwell at the Vikings' 6-yard line.

The return set up Robbie Gould's second field goal of the night.

Hester made up for missed opportunity on his next chance, racing 64 yards up the home team's sideline for the score, helping fuel the Bears' victory and an NFC North Division title.

"We've been closer and closer each and every week to breaking this record, and then for it to come down to the week of us winning the division championship, it felt great," Hester said.

Hester tied the record with an 89-yard punt return in Week 6 against the Seattle Seahawks, but now moves into sole possession with 14 return TDs.

An emotional Hester gave credit to his teammates for his success.

"I hate sitting here taking all the glory," Hester said. "I wish them other 10 guys were up here and y'all were asking them questions because they deserve to be up here. I love them. Those other 10 guys, they wanted it badder than me. I wanted it bad. But I could tell they wanted it badder than me."

Asked why he was getting so emotional talking about his teammates, Hester said: "Everything I'm thinking about, it's coming to me. Coming out of college, coaches told me I wasn't gonna be nothing but a kickoff and punt return dude. I wasn't gonna ever earn a position in the league.

"But I'm here today to say that I am a kickoff and punt returner, but at the same time, the best to ever do it. I'm glad that they said that because right now, I can say today that Chicago Bears are the best punt return team that would ever do this. And we're not gonna stop on this one return. It's gonna be plenty more. It's gonna be a lot more than this. I guarantee you that."

Hester broke the record in 73 games, while Mitchell scored 13 return touchdowns in 223 games.

Hester has returned 10 punts and four kickoffs for TDs. His 108-yard return of a missed field goal in 2006 and a kick return for a touchdown in the 2007 Super Bowl does not count in that total.

With 10 punt returns for touchdowns, Hester is tied with Eric Metcalf for the most in NFL history.

"I'm just happy he got it out of the way," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. "He's a game-changer. I'm just glad he's on my team."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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