Devin Hester is the greatest comeback man of all time. I don’t think that’s a very controversial opinion. Sure, some people might disagree, but in general I imagine most people will agree or understand how I might think he is. Hester was named both NFL Hall of Fame All-2000s and the 2010s teams as a return specialist. He is the NFL all-time leader in punt return touchdowns (14) and the all-time leader in combined return touchdowns with 19.
While Devin Hester is far from an infallible Hall of Famer, you’d be hard-pressed to pass by a small group of NFL fans without running into someone who thinks Hester deserves a place in Canton. Hester was never a great receiver, although he recorded 757 yards and three touchdowns in 2009. His value for every team he played with relied almost entirely on his skills as a return specialist, and yet his credibility in the Hall of Fame is never in question.
I am not saying that I question it, nor that it should be questioned either. Hester was a demon as a comeback. He scared the coaches of the opposing special teams because they knew if they didn’t prepare for Hester he would get them fired. He didn’t even have to field a punt or kick to be dangerous. His false kickback against the Packers is still one of my favorite NFL moments of all time and Hester hasn’t even done anything. I say, however, that if Devin Hester wants to enter Canton, or at the very least, be appointed for dedication, we could start respecting Cordarrelle Patterson’s name.
A former Tennessee first-round pick, Patterson has never lived up to his expectations as a Vikings wide receiver. However, he found a place in the NFL as a kicking returner. Patterson led the NFL in the kickoff return touchdowns of his rookie season. He’s led the league, or has been tied for top of the league, in the same category five times since. He has led the league in kickoff return yards twice and has reached over 1,000 kickoff return yards for the season on three occasions. He is 11th all-time career kickoff return yards, however attempted 39 kickoff returns less than the next few among the top ten (10th place: Leon Washington). Long story short, Patterson was one of the best returning men of that era and was named alongside Hester to the NFL Hall of Fame All-2010 team as a kick returner.
Patterson never made a punt return, and to be fair, this is where Hester really shone as a specialist, but Patterson was a much better kick returner than Hester was. never been. In 295 career kicking returns, Hester has racked up 7,333 yards and five touchdowns. Patterson has amassed 7,450 returning yards and eight touchdowns and 253 career punt returns. He has done more with less and his career is not over yet.
Obviously, Hester also added a ton of value as a punt returner. Patterson has only one career punt return. However, unlike Hester, Patterson also added decent attacking value. Although he was never an incredible wide receiver, he still generated value as a rusher. When used as a gadget-type player, Patterson was incredibly efficient, averaging 6.1 yards per carry before becoming a full-time half-back for the Falcons in 2021. Is it any wonder he became a much more efficient player when he’s made the transition to the backfield, then?
This career rejuvenation for Patterson could be the last nudge he needs to seriously discuss Canton. At 30, Patterson’s best years are probably behind him, but he probably has some juice left in the tank. After all, Hester played until the age of 34. Despite the four-year age difference, Hester has racked up 14,455 career yards compared to Patterson’s 11,339. Patterson has also reached the end zone 33 times in total. Hester, only 37 times. Four years from now, and given how much he was used in Arthur Smith’s offense in Atlanta, there’s a good chance Patterson could top Hester in both general-purpose yards and touchdowns. Currently, Patterson has 753 career touches, giving him 15.06 versatile yards per touch. Hester has recorded 901 career touches, putting him at just 16.04. Hester recorded just one more versatile meter per touch than Patterson, although Patterson had a much heavier workload during his time in the NFL.
The NFL began incorporating changes to the kickoff rules in 2011, two years before Patterson was drafted. Since 2011, NFL kick-off rate of return (that is, kickoffs that are effectively taken out by the return) fell 62%. In an era when kickoff returns just aren’t as popular as they used to be, Patterson has always managed to carve out a role for himself as the first returning man. He won four Pro Bowl nominations and received All-Pro recognition four times (the only returner to ever collect four All-Pro honors) for his skills as a returner. To put that in perspective, Hester, who played in a much happier time for the returning men, has also received Pro Bowl honors four times, but has only been named All-Pro three times. Additionally, Patterson is the only active player to have been named to more than one All-Pro team as a returner, kick-off or punt.
Patterson may not be as well-known as Hester was in his prime, and if name recognition has any say in the credibility of the NFL Hall of Fame, Patterson probably doesn’t stand a chance. I doubt that is the case, however, considering that many offensive linemen, who casual fans would likely find it difficult to put a face to, are named Hall of Fame finalists every year. He might not have as many return yards as Hester, but Patterson managed to strike a balance between efficiency on offense and efficiency on special teams, something Hester was never able to do.
I love Hester. If I had a vote, I would probably put a check next to his name on my Hall of Fame ballot. With all that respect we have given Hester for his ability to return punters and kicks, Patterson has apparently been disrespected and neglected so much that he would be called just a solid football player, before 2021. , attracted many dubious shards. Considering the current state of NFL kickoffs, it’s a wonder what Patterson has been able to achieve in his career. All I’m asking is that we start giving Patterson props similar to the ones we all gave Hester. Is it too much to ask?