ESPNHS Alumnus of the Week: Devin Hester

Devin Hester put on a show at the 2001 Miami Nike Football Training Camp, earning overall MVP honors Brentt Eads/ESPNHS

Devin Hester has accomplished many "firsts" in his spectacular five-plus seasons with the Chicago Bears and Sunday night he added another feat to his ledger, returning a kickoff for a touchdown and catching a touchdown pass in the same game for the first time in his career in the Bears' 39-10 rout of the Minnesota Vikings. Hester became the NFL's all-time leader in punt return touchdowns with 11 just two weeks earlier when he took a punt back 69 yards for a touchdown versus the Carolina Panthers. Hester also holds NFL records for career combined kick and punt return touchdowns (17), single season punt return touchdowns (four) and combined kick return touchdowns in a season (six). Today we take a look back at Hester when he was in high school with an ESPNHS Alumnus of the Week feature.

Devin Hester emerged from one of the nation's top hotbeds for high school football, South Florida, as an elite prospect in the Class of 2002 after a big junior season at Suncoast (Riviera Beach, Fla.) in the fall of 2000. Despite being stuck on a team that went just 2-8 and playing in just seven games that year, Hester had 90 carries for 921 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns with seven receptions for 220 yards and one receiving touchdown. On defense, Hester had 65 tackles, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

His all-around playmaking ability generated strong early interest and an invite to the Miami Nike Camp in the spring of 2001, which looking back turned out to be a loaded event, as it was attended by Hester as well as several other future NFL players including WR Devin Aromashodu (Vikings), LB Jon Beason (Panthers), DE Elvis Dumervil (Broncos), OL Mario Henderson (Raiders), WR Santonio Holmes (Jets), DL Ray McDonald (49ers) and WR Sinorice Moss (Giants/Eagles).

Out of that select field including the above mentioned as well as 70-plus other prospects who would go on to sign with Division I schools, Hester was named the MVP of the Miami Nike Camp after running a camp-best 4.33 in the 40, 4.07 in the shuttle, jumping 33 inches in the vertical and doing 12 reps on the bench and dominating running back drills. The showing launched Hester into the recruiting stratosphere, and he had gathered more than 25 scholarship offers by the start of his senior season.

Hester put it all-together on the field as a senior in the fall of 2001, earning Class 3A All-State honors after rushing for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns on 94 carries (17 touchdowns) while compiling 1,028 yards receiving on 38 catches for nine touchdowns, in addition to throwing for five touchdowns and 225 yards. He also made 156 tackles and had three sacks as a senior on defense.

Following his senior season, Hester was selected to play in the CaliFlorida Bowl, a now defunct all-star game that pitted California's best versus Florida's best. Hester starred in the game, returning a kickoff 85 yards for a score (shown below) and also intercepting a pass to earn MVP honors. He committed to Miami shortly thereafter the game in late January after taking official visits to NC State, Purdue, Georgia and Florida State as well.

Hester was widely regarded as one of the nation's top prospects in the Class of 2002 on Signing Day, being rated by ESPNHS (then known as Student Sports) as the nation's top cornerback prospect, a five-star and the nation's No. 28 overall prospect by Rivals.com and a five-star as well by Scout.com. He was curiously omitted from ESPN's Top 100 list that year, which was compiled by Tom Lemming.