Devin Hester says Dolphins among suitors

RIVIERA BEACH — Devin Hester could end up in a Miami Dolphins uniform by the summer.

The free agent wide receiver and kick returner, who spent eight years with the Chicago Bears before parting ways this month, said the Dolphins are one of 13 teams that have expressed interest in signing him.

A three-time Pro Bowler who holds the NFL record for return touchdowns with 20, Hester would welcome an opportunity to play for his hometown team.
He grew up in Riviera Beach, graduated from Suncoast High School and played college football at the University of Miami.

“I grew up watching them,” Hester, 31, said of the Dolphins. “It’s closer to home. It’s closer to my family.”

Hester, who was in town Saturday for a free youth football clinic sponsored by the city of Riviera Beach and his year-old foundation, the Anytime 23 Empowerment Center, said the Dolphins’ recent bullying scandal is not an issue for him.

An NFL-commissioned report released last month detailed incidents of harassment, racism, bullying and homophobia within the Dolphins’ locker room last season.

Hester has no timetable for reaching an agreement with an NFL team, though he hopes to be signed by the time training camp starts this summer.
Though he’s had his greatest success as a kick returner, he said he’d like some playing time at wide receiver.

During his career, Hester has caught 217 passes for 2,807 yards and 14 touchdowns.

“I’m going to let my agent and the upstairs guys on offense work out the details,” he said. “What’s fair is fair.”

In the meantime, Hester, who lives in Orlando, is focusing much of his attention on his foundation.

The non-profit Anytime 23 Empowerment Center provides after-school programs and activities that promote healthy, stable lifestyles for kids ages 6-18.
As children, Hester and his older brother, Lenoris, were active in the local Boys and Girls Club. Lenoris Hester now is executive director of his brother’s foundation.

“I wanted to give back to the community and inspire youth,” Hester said.

Saturday’s clinic at Suncoast and a celebrity basketball game Friday night were the first public events organized by the foundation.

Friday’s game featured 20 current or former NFL players, including several with ties to Palm Beach County. Anquan Boldin and Abram Elam were among those who participated.

Saturday’s youth clinic drew nearly 300 youngsters in grades 3-8. Thirty professional football players, local high school coaches and volunteers ran the program, which was designed to introduce kids to football by teaching basic skills.

Grant money to support the event was provided through the NFL Youth Football Fund.

“This is all basic, fundamental stuff,” said Hester, who helped run drills Saturday. “We’re just doing the small details to get them started and advance their talents.”

Several of Hester’s former Chicago Bears teammates served as volunteer coaches at the clinic, including cornerback Tim Jennings and safety Major Wright, now a free agent.

Both said they were happy to support Hester’s efforts to reach out to children. Hester has two sons, ages 1 and 4.

“For him to come out here and give back to his community is great,” said Wright, who played with Hester for four seasons. “It’s an opportunity for him to come out here, see where he grew up and give back to his kids. He’s a great guy, not just on the field.”

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