Ranking the 10 Most Insane Kick Returns in NFL History
There are certain moments that although in time are measured in seconds, in their spectacular display, breed euphoric insanity. Such is the case with an NFL kickoff returned for a touchdown.
From the moment the ball is launched skyward to the seconds it takes to plummet earthward, stricken by unforgiving gravity into the arms and chest of its chosen vessel, the anticipation of a possibly beautiful burst into the promised land exists.
All the momentum and leverage a return man needs can be gained in a tiny step backward before taking the necessary hundred or so steps forward towards the goal on the other end.
Although there are a handful of historical kamikazes who achieved valor for their abilities to spectacularly solve the puzzles of by a kickoff return, they are not the only ones who have produced moments of awe.
Here is a list of the most insane kickoff returns of all time, either for there skill, or encapsulation of a moment, or both.
10. Dan Connolly, New England Patriots: Longest Return by a Lineman
An offensive lineman’s existence is validated through the ability to protect, and propel teammates goalward. It is a rare instance when they are the ones given the opportunity to achieve the glory that exists on the other side of that white end zone line.
Dan Connolly made the most of this rare moment, producing an effort that his fellow blocking brethren could reflect on for a football lifetime to come. All this magnificence from a man who was signed as a practice squad player in 2007.
9. Brad Smith, New York Jets: No Shoe, No Problem
The most phenomenal aspect of this return by Brad Smith of the New York Jets is not that he was running at a speed with which his own shoe could not keep up. He seemed to shift into a one-shoe speed that exceeded his initial two-shoe velocity.
8. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Reverse
The old reverse. A perfect adaptation by Antonio Brown of the timeless trick play.
7. Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Browns: The Soon to Be GOAT
Cribbs is on track to become the most prolific kick returner in the history of the game. He already is the career leader with eight kick returns for touchdowns so far. In 2007, he had nearly 2,000 yards on kickoff return yards. He finished that year with 1,809 yards, averaging 30.7 yards per touch.
This return is the kind that many returners can’t even pull off in practice, made to look effortless, yet incomprehensible by Cribbs.
6. Ellis Hobbs, New England Patriots: The Longest Kickoff Return Ever Until...
Despite the distorted visuals of the film, Ellis Hobbs' fluidity and grace over 108 yards is still strikingly apparent.
5. Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: Ties Longest Kickoff Return Ever
The second 108-yard kickoff return in NFL history, almost four years to the day that Hobbs set the record, tied by the Packers Randall Cobb.
Look at where Cobb begins the journey, and where 108 yards later, he reaches his desired destination. What happens along the way is the opposite of unspectacular.
4. Desmond Howard, Green Bay Packers: Super Bowl XXXI
Desmond Howard cultivated a flair for the dramatic in his days at Michigan, that would become eternally encapsulated by his Heisman trophy pose. He then went on to produce equally enormous moments in the NFL.
Yet none of his returns for touchdowns could match this return, which still stands as the longest in Super Bowl history.
3. Woodrow Dantzler, Dallas Cowboys: Pinball Machine/Tiptoe Through the Tulips
Some pictures, and, in this case, videos, are done a disservice by attempts at description. This is one of those videos.
2. Lorenzo Neal, Frank Wycheck, Kevin Dyson, Tennessee Titans: 2000 AFC Wild Card
1. Devin Hester, Chicago Bears: Super Bowl XLI
Devin Hester made the moment when flashbulbs are popping at the highest volume worthy of such a flood of light, delivering the most dazzling sequence ever to open a Super Bowl.