FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Devin Hester and Dwight Freeney have been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024, the selection committee announced on Thursday night.
Collectively, Hester and Freeney spent three seasons with the Falcons; Hester from 2014-15 and Freeney in 2016. This was Hester's third time as a finalist for a Hall of Fame selection and Freeney's second.
Hester was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft. Over the course of his rookie deal, he became a standout return specialists. He was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in 2006, returning 47 punts for 600 yards (both NFL highs) and three touchdowns, along with 20 kickoffs for 528 yards and two touchdowns. Later that season in Super Bowl XLI, Hester returned the opening kickoff 92-yards for a touchdown. That is the only time in Super Bowl history that feat had been accomplished.
By the time Hester came to Atlanta in 2014, he had already been named a First-Team All-Pro three times (2006, '07 and '10). Hester joined the Falcons organization and immediately made an impact, catching five passes for 99 yards in his first game as a Falcon. Two weeks later, he returned a punt 62 yards for his 20th career touchdown return, breaking the record for career non-offensive touchdowns (a record that was previously held by fellow Falcons legend Deion Sanders). Hester was selected to the Pro Bowl that season.
Unfortunately for Hester and the Falcons, he missed majority of the 2015 season with a toe injury and underwent toe surgery in January 2016. The Falcons released him that year. Hester would spend the next two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and Seattle Seahawks before retiring on a one-day contract with the Chicago Bears in 2017.
Though Freeney only spent one season with the Falcons, it was an important one as Atlanta won the NFC Championship and faced off against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.
Freeney was a first-round selection in the 2002 NFL draft. In his first year he was selected to the NFL All-Rookie team after recording 13 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss with Indianapolis Colts. Freeney would go on to earn seven Pro Bowl selections, three AP first-team All-Pro honors and play in three Super Bowls, winning one with the Colts.
The defensive end/outside linebacker finished his career with 125.5 sacks, 148 quarterback hits and 128 tackles for a loss. By his retirement in 2018, Freeney was credited with 47 career forced fumbled, which is tied for third all-time in the NFL.
Hester and Freeney along with the rest of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024 will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio as part of the 2024 Enshrinement Week in August.
For more information, visit www.profootballhof.com/enshrinement/.