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Best NFL Kick Returners of All Time: Devin Hester, Dante Hall Headline Top 6

Who are the best NFL kick returners of all time? We offer our top six, which includes iconic returners such as Devin Hester and Dante Hall.

Few plays in football are more exciting than when kicks or punts are returned for touchdowns. They’re the kinds of plays you can’t predict, but when they happen, they can change the outcome of a game. As such, players who otherwise wouldn’t contribute to their teams can earn long careers as return specialists.

But who are the best NFL kick returners of all time? We ranked the top six, along with four honorable mentions.

6 Best NFL Kick Returners of All Time

(Note: We didn’t separate punt and kick returners while making this list. All returners — including those who specialized in one area and those who did both — were considered.)

Honorable mentions: Brian Mitchell, Eric Metcalf, Mel Gray, Percy Harvin

6) Desmond Howard

Desmond Howard didn’t have any kickoff return touchdowns during the regular season, but he famously took one to the house for the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 31. Howard was especially good on punts, returning eight for touchdowns — including three in 1996 — during his 11-year career.

The one-time Pro Bowler ranks sixth all-time with an 11.9 punt return average.

5) Cordarrelle Patterson

While he is the best kickoff returner of his era and one of the best of all time, Cordarrelle Patterson would be higher on this list if he’d returned more than one punt during his career.

Through the 2023 season, Patterson had a whopping nine kickoff return TDs (most all-time), including two seasons with two scores. He’s returned a kickoff for a touchdown in seven of his 11 seasons in the pros. Patterson also ranks third all-time with a 29.3 kickoff return average.

4) Dante Hall

Nicknamed “The Human Joystick,” Dante Hall was ridiculously fun to watch. There was some boom-or-bost to his game, but when Hall had room to operate, he could make anyone miss.

The Kansas City Chiefs great racked up six kickoff return TDs and six punt return TDs during his impressive career. He also earned two Pro Bowl nods and one first-team All-Pro selection.

3) Josh Cribbs

Josh Cribbs was an outrageously good returner. He held the kickoff return TD record (eight) until Patterson broke it in 2022. He also had three punt return TDs, giving him 11 total return touchdowns. Cribbs posted a 26.1 kickoff return average, good for 25th all-time.

Cribbs played for the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, and New York Jets during his 10-year career. He made it to three Pro Bowls while earning one first-team All-Pro selection

2) Gale Sayers

One of the best running backs of all time, Gale Sayers also was an all-time great kick returner. He twice led the league in kickoff return average and finished his career with two punt return TDs and six kickoff return TDs.

Sayers’ career was cut short, so his numbers aren’t as impressive as others on this list. But during his time, he was one of the most dangerous returns in football history.

1) Devin Hester

Devin Hester had to be No. 1.

He holds the NFL record for total return touchdowns with 19, finishing his career with 14 punt return touchdowns (most all-time) and five kickoff return TDs. Hester famously returned the opening kickoff in Super Bowl 41 for a touchdown, further cementing his legacy as the greatest returner in NFL history.

A four-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, Hester is a member of the 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.