Oct 29, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Former Carolina Panthers great Julius Peppers is honored on the field before the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Former Bears Devin Hester, Julius Peppers part of seven-member Class of 2024

A trio of former Chicago Bears players were among seven players to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024, the NFL announced Thursday night.

Devin Hester, Julius Peppers and Steve McMichael each will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, this summer. They will join four others: longtime Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson, Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

McMichael and Gradishar were senior selections, while the other five were part of the modern class.

The Hall of Fame is filled almost entirely with offensive and defensive stars, but Hester got the nod for his achievements on special teams. He holds the NFL record with 20 overall return touchdowns, as well as the league record with 14 punt return TDs.

Hester’s highlights included returning the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown against Indianapolis. He also caught 255 passes for 3,311 yards and 16 touchdowns during his career.

“Devin revolutionized the game,” Bears chairman George McCaskey said. “No one had seen anything like him, and there hasn’t been anyone like him since. He had opposing head coaches telling their special teams coordinators, ‘Don’t kick to that guy,’ and they suffered the consequences when the message didn’t get through. We’re delighted that the Hall has recognized Devin’s special talents.”

Johnson also stood apart with his ability to find the end zone. The Texans’ first-round pick in 2003 finished his career with 1,062 catches and 70 touchdowns, and he finished with seven 1,000-yard seasons during his 14-year career.

On the defensive side, Freeney earned the call to Canton in his second year of eligibility. He led the NFL with 16 sacks in 2004 and finished his career with 125 1/2 sacks in 218 games.

Willis’ wait ended after five years of eligibility. Although his career was shortened because of injuries, he finished with seven Pro Bowl selections in eight years with the 49ers.

Peppers burst onto the scene with the Carolina Panthers in 2002, finishing his rookie season with 12 sacks, five forced fumbles and an interception in 12 games. The defensive end went on to star for the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers before returning to Carolina to finish his career. He is the only player in NFL history to rack up at least 150 sacks and 10 interceptions.

McMichael, affectionately known as “Mongo” by Bears fans, was a key part of Chicago’s 1985 Super Bowl championship team. The defensive lineman finished his career with 95 sacks and 13 forced fumbles and gained notoriety for his fearless playing style. The honor was bittersweet as McMichael is battling ALS and was unable to attend the announcement in Las Vegas.

Gradishar was named to seven Pro Bowls during his 10-year career with the Broncos. He was voted the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 1978, and he finished with 20 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns to go along with 19 1/2 sacks and more than 2,000 tackles.

–Field Level Media

Dec 22, 2019; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears former player Devin Hester is introduced before a game between the Chicago Bears and the Kansas City Chiefs at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Andre Johnson, Devin Hester among 15 PFHOF finalists

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, Chicago Bears return specialist Devin Hester and Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware were among the 15 finalists announced Thursday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

Johnson, who also played one season apiece for the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans before retiring after the 2016 season, finished his 14-year career with 1,062 receptions for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns. He could become the first player to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a Texan.

In 11 seasons, Hester made a name for himself as the greatest returner in NFL history. He returned 14 punts and five kickoffs for touchdowns in his career, plus a 108-yard return TD on a missed field goal. His kick return touchdown to open Super Bowl XLI against the Colts was the fastest touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Ware recorded 138.5 sacks in his 12-year career, which currently ranks 13th in league history. He was named a first-team All-Pro four times and finished his career with the Denver Broncos, where he won Super Bowl 50.

Four other first-year eligible players on the list of semifinalists — wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Steve Smith and defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Vince Wilfork — did not make the cut.

Johnson may face competition from other receivers for a spot in the class, with longtime Colts star Reggie Wayne and former Rams standout Torry Holt also among the finalists.

The Class of 2022 will be revealed during the NFL Honors awards show on Feb. 10.

The full list of 15 finalists is below:

Jared Allen, defensive end, 2004-15
Willie Anderson, tackle, 1996-2008
Ronde Barber, defensive back, 1997-2012
Tony Boselli, tackle, 1995-2001
LeRoy Butler, safety, 1990-2001
Devin Hester, return specialist/wide receiver, 2006-16
Torry Holt, wide receiver, 1999-2009
Andre Johnson, wide receiver, 2003-16
Sam Mills, linebacker, 1986-97
Richard Seymour, defensive lineman, 2001-12
Zach Thomas, linebacker, 1996-2008
DeMarcus Ware, linebacker, 2005-16
Reggie Wayne, wide receiver, 2001-14
Patrick Willis, linebacker, 2007-14
Bryant Young, defensive lineman, 1994-2007

–Field Level Media

Andre Johnson strained right hamstring

<p> Houston Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson strained his right hamstring.</p> <p> “I just got a little tight, it was just a precaution,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go in and see what’s what. Just from the feeling of it, it’s not anything bad.”</p> <p> Texans coach Bill O'Brien described the injury as minor.</p> <p> Johnson missed the Texans' offseason program as he was disgruntled with the direction of the franchise.</p> <p> Now, he's back, but slightly injured.</p> <p> Follow me on Twitter: <a href="http://www.twitter.com/RavensInsider">@RavensInsider</a></p> <p> Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun</p>