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Devin Hester Is The Rule Not The Exception

There are several times where we all get wrapped up in issues that just don't mean much in the long run. Whenever a Bears' fan mentions the name Devin Hester, the question, “Can he be a number one receiver?” inevitably comes up. After further thought and proper prospective, contemplating Hester's future is as farcical as a Hall Of Fame running back and a Pro Bowl middle linebacker engrossed in a fake “beef.”


Devin could soon turn into a great WR
One of the biggest question marks for the Bears heading into the 2010 season has to be the wide receiver corps with the biggest target landing square on the back of Devin Hester. A couple years ago, the Bears brass decided to make him a full-time receiver and pay him number one receiver type money. Whether he was ready or not, he was thrust into the position of being this team's top receiver.

When contemplating Hester's potential, most fans take only two sides: No or Yes. The correct answer lies in the middle. That middle is: WE DON'T KNOW!

We don't know because slow starts are the staple of NFL wide receivers. Everyone can't be Randy Moss and Anquan Boldin who both hit the ground running in record-breaking style. Most (if not all), start slow and ascend to their proper place, wherever that may be.

Honestly, most venom is spewed by Bears' fans because of the all-time great seasons he had initially as a kick returner. He was amazing. We're all fond of those former returns and can vividly hear Jeff Joniak yelling “Devin Hester - You Are Ridiculous!” right now while smiling like a 4 year old with an endless calendar of Halloweens.

We need to get over it.

A borderline Pro Bowl wideout trumps even a once in a lifetime kick returner any day. Of course I am not sure if he can become a good player at this position, but it is true that more value (especially with the money he's being paid) can be had in this new role rather than the old.

I've picked one current and four former players to take a look at. Maybe their careers will put Hester's beginning into some perspective...

Andre Reed (951 rec. / 13,198) – Mr. Reed had a start similar to Devin Hester's first couple of seasons as a full-time starter. Years of 48, 53, and 57 receptions accompanied 637, 739, and 752 yards which isn't bad for a fourth round pick who later he would turn himself into an all-time great. Surprisingly, he only had four seasons of 1,000 yards receiving, but he did have five other seasons of 850 yards or more to complement those.

Cris Carter (1,101 rec. / 13,899 yards) – This man's early-career alcohol abuse problems are well documented. That addiction, coupled with a lack of dedication to his craft caused Carter to have a very slow start in a career that didn't see him get his first 1,000 yard receiving season until year seven. As a matter of fact, he started out with seasons of 5, 39, 45, and 27 receptions before exploding in year five with a mildly exceptional 72 receptions. He ended his career as arguably one of the five best receivers to ever play the game.

Michael Irvin (750 rec. / 11,90 yards) – Was anyone else as surprised as I was that the “Playmaker” only had 65 career TDs? That aside, Irvin started very slowly in the first three years of his career with 32, 26, and 20 receptions. He brought it all together in year four with an exceptional 93 receptions and 1,523 yards. He made so many big plays in the post season and during the Cowboys' peak regular seasons, that we all totally forget about his slow start to his career, opting to instead focus on the glitz, glamor, and three Super Bowl titles. In his prime only Jerry Rice was considered to be better.

Rod Smith (849 rec. / 11,389 yards) – An undrafted free agent from Missouri Southern State who turned himself into a three time pro bowler with a couple of championships to boot. Smith started out his career with two seasons that by all accounts should have put him out of the league with 6 and 16 receptions. His third full season was a breakout smash with 70 receptions and 1,180 yards. He is the first and only NFL undrafted free agent wide receiver to have ever accumulate 10,000 career receiving yards.


Roddy White
Roddy White (315 rec. / 4,689 yards) – What a disappointing start for this former first round selection. The only time I saw Roddy White during his first two seasons was on a milk carton at my local gas station. Jokes aside, most observers weren't sure if it was the guy throwing him the ball (Michael Vick) or a lack of determination that was to blame for White's paltry 29 and 30 receptions early on. His last 3 seasons have seen consecutive 80+ receptions and 1150+ receiving yards while propelling himself into the upper-echelon of current NFL wide-outs.

The bottom line is this: Slow starts are not only common, but expected.

These guys were all drafted as wide receivers, played the position in college and still found a way to struggle initially. Hester played some receiver in college (very little) but was mainly a cornerback. He was drafted as a kick returner who's position would be listed as corner.

When you think about it, that sort of transition is pretty damn tough. Totals of 51 and 57 receptions by Hester these last two seasons are pretty good. Sure, he's physically gifted, but playing this game and that position with just speed and quickness won't get you on a practice squad. Maybe we should just appreciate what we are already seeing from him.

With no formal training and essentially “learning-on-the-fly,” Hester has at the very least made himself into a credible NFL receiver with the potential to become much better. We have no idea if he will turn out to be the next Michael Irvin, Tom Waddle, or Freddie Mitchell.

Why can't we just be happy? Why can't we just hope for the best? Why can't we be patient and see where this goes? History tells us that greatness may be around the corner; if not, we always have his returns to fall back on, right?


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