Top 50 Falcons: No. 31, Devin Hester

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 31 is wide receiver/returner Devin Hester.

Years played for Falcons: After eight seasons in Chicago, the NFL’s greatest return man joined the Falcons in 2014. While with the Bears, Hester spent time at both the cornerback and wide receiver position. In college at Miami (Fla.), the former second round pick became the first player in school history to play offense, defense and special teams with the Hurricanes.

Jersey No.: 17

His impact on the team: Hester has only played one season in Atlanta as he has been sidelined all year with a turf toe injury. When healthy, he was an electrifying piece for the Falcons. In his debut game with the Falcons, Hester caught five passes for 99 yards, helping lead the Falcons to a 37-34 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints. Two weeks later in a Thursday Night Football romp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he returned a punt 62-yards for a touchdown marking his 20th return for touchdown in his career, breaking the all-time record held by former Falcon and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Hester finished 2014 leading the League in punt return average (13.3), kick returns (45) and kick return yards (1,128), helping him garner his fourth career Pro Bowl selection. He also chipped in offensively and saw his best season since 2009, catching 38 balls for 504 yards and two touchdowns.

Devin Hester pays homage to Falcons Hall of Famer Deion Sander as he returns a punt 62-yards for a touchdown - marking his 20th return for a touchdown and breaking the all-time record set by Sanders. (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

On choosing Atlanta in free agency: “Atlanta, at the end of the day, was the team that showed the most interest. It’s a winning program. I looked at them as a team that I know is going to have a good season.”

On breaking the return record: "It's tough to break the record of the guy who is my No. 1 mentor. I'm kind of emotional right now."

On his current toe injury: "It was a little more than just a regular turf toe. Two parts were torn a little bit. It just flared up. I tore a little piece on the outside and in the middle.”

Where he is now: The 33-year-old Hester is currently working his way back onto the practice field and hopes to make his first in-game appearance in Week 13.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith

49: Michael Haynes

48: Jonathan Babineaux

47: John Zook

46: Ken Reaves

45: Lynn Cain

44: Justin Blalock

43: Bobby Butler

42: Tim Mazzetti

41: Buddy Curry

40: Scott Case

39: Jeff Merrow

38: Elbert Shelley

37: Matt Bryant

36: Alge Crumpler

35: Michael Turner

34: Ray Buchanan

33: Chris Hinton

32: Terance Mathis

31: Devin Hester

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