Miami Herald (Sunday)

Hester, Johnson are the latest Hurricanes elected to NFL Hall of Fame

- BY SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN sdegnan@miamiheral­ Susan Miller Degnan: 305-376-3366, @smillerdeg­nan

The long list of former Miami Hurricanes greats is astounding.

Add two more to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Late Thursday, return specialist Devin Hester and receiver Andre Johnson — two of the greatest Hurricanes in history — joined an already impressive group of UM players to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hester, 41, a Riviera Beach native and three-way player for Miami on offense, defense and special teams, will become the first Pro Football Hall of Fame member to be inducted as a return specialist. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft and also played for the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks over 11 seasons.

He set NFL records for most punt returns for touchdowns (14) and total special teams touchdowns (20 on five kickoffs, 14 punts and one missed field goal).

And what Hurricanes fan could forget when Hester became the only player in Super Bowl history to run back an opening kickoff for a Chicago Bears touchdown in Super Bowl 41 in 2007 at Dolphin Stadium?

His 92-yard beauty took 14 seconds, then the fastest score in Super Bowl history.

At Miami, he ran back six return touchdowns, including a career-high three in 2004, when he was named a first-team All-American. finished his career (2003 and 2004) at Miami with 41 punt returns for 638 yards, 40 kick returns for 1,019 yards, 24 carries for 160 yards, 10 catches for 196 yards, 11 tackles, one sack and five intercepti­ons.

“Honestly, I thought I was going to be a first ballot, you know I really did,” Hester told reporters Thursday at the Hall of Fame news conference in Las Vegas, where the

Super Bowl will be held Sunday. “But at the end of day, man, I’m just blessed, and I’m honored to be the first returner.

“It’s hard to say who’s the No. 1 quarterbac­k, No. 2 running back, No. 1 defensive player, but in the situation I’m in, I can honestly say I’m the No. 1 returner of all time. It’s a great honor.”

Johnson, 42, is a Miami native and 1999 Miami Senior High graduate who was selected by the Houston Texans with the third overall pick in 2003, and becomes the first Texan to be inducted.

He was in seven Pro Bowls and caught 1,062 passes for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns, with seven 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL. He also played for the Indianapol­is Colts and Tennessee Titans.

In 2008, he led the NFL in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,575).

As a Hurricane, Johnson became the second player in UM history to gain at least 1,000 receiving yards in a season, when he caught 52 passes for 1,092 yards and nine touchdowns in 2002.

That season he led the nation in yards-per-catch (21). He was the Most Valuable Player, along with UM quarterbac­k great Ken Dorsey, in the 2002 Rose Bowl national championsh­ip game after the 2001 season. Johnson caught seven passes for 199 yards, a UM bowl record, and two touchdowns in that Rose Bowl.

Johnson ended his UM career with 92 catches for 1,831 yards, a career average of 19.9 yards per catch.

Hester and Johnson are the 10th and 11th Canes to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The others: Ted Hendricks, Michael Irvin, Jim Kelly, Cortez Kennedy, Ray Lewis, Jim Otto, Edgerrin James, Ed Reed and Warren Sapp.

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