- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll landed tons of blue-chip recruits during his time at Southern California, but admits one slipped through the cracks.
The coach could receive yet a crude reminder of one of the recruits who got away Sunday in the NFC Divisional playoffs if Devin Hester does a repeat performance of his punt return for a TD in Week 6. Hester expressed his disappointment with Carroll for not recruiting him both verbally and later with the 89-yard punt return during Oct. 17 matchup between the teams.
"Yeah, matter of fact he mentioned that during pre-game, and I tried to cool him down because I didn't want him to take it out on us," Carroll said Wednesday. "Yeah, we missed him somehow, and I've asked around since then because I missed him. I couldn't remember what happened in the recruiting because he came all the way from Florida. But he reminded me that he played in the California-Florida All-Star game, and was player of the game, and I should have known that. We just missed him. That's how it goes sometimes."
Hester, who played collegiately at Miami, broke the NFL's record for combined punt and kick-return TDs (14) in Week 15 with a 64-yard burst against the Minnesota Vikings that also tied Eric Metcalf's record for punt-return TDs (10).
"The amount of excitement Devin Hester has generated over the years by proving he's the best ever -- that lights up the stadium, it lights up an audience, it lights up everybody just because you know it can happen," Carroll said. "So that factor's a great factor to have on your team. I can't imagine with all of the touchdowns he made, the impact he has had on so many games."
Hester also finished the regular season leading the NFL in punt-return average (17.1), which ranks as the best average in team history, and ninth in league history.
Carroll jokingly blamed current USC coach Lane Kiffin for the Trojans missing out on Hester.
"I did bring it up that it was Lane's [recruiting] area," Carroll said. "I don't have an idea if it was. I just threw Kiffin under the bus on that one."
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.
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