The Best Kickoff Returns in NFL History

    August 23, 2011 at 6:00 am

    devin-hesterFootball is back! If you’ve been watching the new NFL football season, you may have noticed an important change in this season’s rules: the kickoff line has been bumped up 10 yards to ensure more touch-backs, thereby limiting the most dangerous/awesome part of any football game: the kickoff return, in which 22 incredibly powerful dudes charge at one another over a 60-yard stretch and then collide with break-neck force at full speed. Unfortunately, thanks to the new NFL rule, we won’t be seeing as many awesome kickoff returns this season, so we’ve compiled a list of the best kickoff returns in NFL football history. Watch these videos in remembrance of the good ol’ days.

    Ellis Hobbs vs. The New York Jets

    September 9, 2007

    Apologies for the quality of this video. Apparently, the NFL a bit stingy with its rights and clearances. Anyway, in the video above, you’ll see blurry little blob Ellis Hobbs rocket past a bunch of other blurry little blobs to complete a 109-yard kick of return, the longest in NFL history. That’s pretty awesome considering that (based on this video) it’s impossible to tell any of the players apart from one another. I guess he’s just good at avoiding blurry faceless blobs.

    Devin Hester vs. the Indianapolis Colts

    February 4, 2007 (Opening Kickoff of Super Bowl XLI)

    Super Bowl 41 started off really well for the Chicago Bears, because Devin Hester (arguably one of the greatest return guys in the game’s history) ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only good play the Bears had the whole game. The Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl 29-17.

    Desmond Howard vs. the New England Patriots

    January 26, 1997 (Super Bowl XXXI)

    Jump to around 1:58 to see Desmond Howard fly past the entire New England Patriots team for a Super Bowl touchdown of his own. Green Bay went on to beat the Patriots 35-21, though, so Howard’s incredible running ability didn’t really make a difference. He could’ve just downed it and they still would’ve won.

    Josh Cribbs vs. the Kansas City Chiefs

    December 20, 2009

    This video offers a good glimpse of Josh Cribbs’ running ability and should also give you a great idea of what it’s like to be a Browns fan. There’s a lot of booing around you, you’re surprised whenever anything good happens, and most of the people you’re with have no clue what’s even happening.

    The Tennessee Titans vs. The Buffalo Bills

    January 8, 2000

    This kickoff return is commonly known as “The Music City Miracle”, because it happened in Nashville and it was, by all accounts, a miracle. In football, a miracle is defined as a trick play that actually works, causing the trick play-calling team to win the game as a result. That’s what happened here.

    Leon Washington vs. The San Diego Chargers

    September 26, 2010

    I can’t stress this enough: if the NFL would just loosen up the restrictions on their video clips, we wouldn’t have to subject you to clips like this, featuring drunk, possibly homeless Seahawks fan talking to players that clearly can’t hear him, ranting about other fans, and talking about blood way too much. Nonetheless, this crazy dude captured Leon Washington returning not one but TWO kickoffs for touchdowns.

    Dan Connolly vs. The Green Bay Packers

    December 19, 2010

    Look at this big guy go! Before you start complaining about how slow Dan Connolly is and how he doesn’t actually make it to the endzone, keep in mind that we’re talking about a 315-pound lineman. This guy shouldn’t be able to run at all, let alone run 71 yards, dodge tackles, and do a sweet cutback before finally being brought down on the four yard line. Thanks to this run, Connolly holds the NFL record for longest kick return by a lineman in NFL history.

    Brian Mitchell vs. The Atlanta Falcons

    1990, for his first kick return ever

    Brian Mitchell was one of the greatest return guys the NFL had ever seen. The video above covers a lot of info about Mitchell, including the fact that his first NFL return touchdown was also the first kickoff he’d ever returned at all. He was a natural from day one.

    Brad Smith vs. The Cincinatti Bengals

    November 25, 2010

    Brad Smith ran so fast during this kick return that he actually ran out of his own shoes and finished the run (the last 40-yards or so) with only one shoe, which makes me feel like even more of a sissy than I already did. So thanks, Brad Smith. Thanks a lot.

    Percy Harvin vs. The Pittsburgh Steelers

    November 25, 2010

    Percy Harvin is a great return guy, as evidenced in this clip. Also of note: the referee that gets bulldozed by an over-excited lineman who just wants to hit something really bad. As you’ll see in the clip, there’s nobody around this referee. The blocker could easily have just gone around him, but I guess you gotta take a cheap shot against a ref whenever you can, right?

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