Last season Chicago Bears wide receiver/return man Devin Hester set the NFL record for most combined kick return touchdowns in a career with 14. Yesterday Hester added to that record, while breaking another, when he returned his 15th kickoff or punt return for a touchdown. Hester's 69-yard punt return in the second quarter of the Bears' 34-29 win over the Carolina Panthers
moved him into sole possession of the record for punt returns taken back for scores in a career (11). He had shared the mark with Eric Metcalf.
Hester put the record in perspective after the game, "You can't expect to get one every game. Returning a punt or kickoff is one of the hardest things to do in the NFL. Fortunately around here, we've been able to get a lot of them."
Chronology of the Career Punt Returns for TDs record:
The NFL began keeping detailed official statistics in 1932. However, before that time, the record-keeping recognized Curly Oden of the Providence Steam Roller as the record holder for punt returns for touchdowns in a career. He managed to return five punts for TDs from 1925 to 1931.
Oden's record stood for 20 seasons until Detroit Lions
and Hall of Fame defensive back Jack Christiansen returned his sixth punt return for a score. He managed the feat in just his second NFL season. Following a league-high four punt return touchdowns during his rookie year Christiansen picked up where he left off and returned two punts to pay dirt in 1952. He set the record on Nov. 23, 1952 against the Bears when he returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown with 59 seconds left to give Detroit a 23-17 lead. Christiansen added two more touchdowns to his career record total (8) before his playing days were finished.
Christiansen's record stood for 45 years until 1997, although it was tied in 1982 when Rick Upchurch of the Denver Broncos
returned his eighth career punt (a 78-yarder) for a TD against the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 19.
The shared record of punt-return for touchdowns (8) finally fell during Week 13 of the 1997 season. Eric Metcalf, then of the San Diego Chargers
, returned his third punt of the season for a touchdown against Denver from 83 yards out on Nov. 30. The return gave him nine for his career and established a new NFL mark. He recorded his 10th and final punt return touchdown in 2001 as a member of the Washington Redskins
Remarkably, it took Hester only six seasons and just 80 games to amass 11 touchdowns on punt returns. He may very well add to that mark with the way he runs in the open field.
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