Devin Hester slowly paced around the 5-yard line while anxiously awaiting the opening kickoff to start Super Bowl XLI. The rookie cleanly caught the kick and sprinted toward his blockers. After he blasted through an opening and hurdled a diving defender, the former second-round pick was on his way to doing what he had done five times already that season: return a kick for a touchdown.
Hester's return skills have made opposing special-teams coaches lose sleep at night. However, his talents may no longer be seen again at the Pro Bowl.
Starting this year, the Pro Bowl will no longer feature kickoffs. This move is widely thought to be the beginning of a permanent removal of kickoffs in all games while slowly dismantling it in the Pro Bowl first. Roger Goodell and the NFL cite injury prevention as the reason.
Hester, along with other disgruntled players and fans, feel the NFL faithful are being robbed.
"It's something that my family looks forward to every year as well as me preparing and training," said Hester in a recent interview.
Hester is a three-time Pro Bowler and currently holds the all-time kick-return touchdown record with 17.
"For a person like me that's only doing returns, it's one less goal I have," Hester said.