The Atlanta Falcons utility man honored Sanders as he scored the 20th return touchdown of his career, high-stepping the final 20 yards at the Georgia Dome as Sanders—on hand doing analysis for CBS—watched from near the tunnel.
After the Falcons’ 56-14 trouncing of the Buccaneers, the two met up for the CBS postgame show and shared an emotional moment. Mentor reunited with prodigy, and the two could scarcely hold back tears as they took in the moment.
“I’m overcome with emotions right now,” Sanders said. “I love you as a man, as a father, as a husband…I remember the beginning man. I love you dude, and I’m so proud of you, man.”
Hester responded by telling Sanders how much he appreciated the Hall of Famer's support over the years:
I told you I was gonna [break the record]...I remember the first time you called me, man. I was in a meeting. We were playing NC State. I had my phone in my pocket. Somebody said you were gonna call me. I gave you my number…I see my phone vibrate…I didn’t even look at it, I just snuck out, went to the bathroom and called you right back…you’ve always been there for me, man. And I look up to you, man. I really do.
In an NFL season overcome by a seemingly endless monsoon of bad news, the sight of Hester and Sanders pouring their hearts out on live television was something many of us needed.
It’s easy to become cynical given recent revelations in the league, but under all the arterial plaque of domestic abuse and PR palpitations, a heart still beats in professional football. The pulse is faint, but as Hester and Sanders showed, it is very much alive.
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