Devin Hester put an end to his endorsement deals during the offseason because the travel they required was wearing him out. | Getty Images
Updated: November 16, 2011 11:51AM
Devin Hester is one of the Bears’ most marketable stars, a dynamic playmaker and an NFL record-holder.
He had several notable endorsements last season, most notably Under Armour and Red Bull, and other companies were offering him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
More opportunities are sure to come after his punt return for a touchdown Oct. 2 against the Carolina Panthers gave him sole possession of the NFL record with 13 touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns.
But Hester ended his deals with Under Armour and Red Bull during the offseason and said he isn’t inclined to take on any other endorsements.
‘‘It’s too much,’’ he told the Sun-Times. ‘‘It takes away a lot.’’
On and off the field.
Time is money
Sponsors have needs, too, and a player’s commitment to collect that extra income takes a toll — especially during the season.
After a game Sunday, Hester occasionally had to jet somewhere for a commercial, a photo shoot or an appearance and sometimes didn’t return to Chicago until late Tuesday.
‘‘Then there’s no rest,’’ he said.
Although he’s only 28, Hester said he has to be more diligent about taking care of his body.
‘‘With the off day, you need to let your body recover and get treatment,’’ he said. ‘‘If you’re on the road, things like that can hurt. You miss a day or two of treatment, and it’ll show.
‘‘I’ve got to make sure I can do this for another four or five years. With all that stress, it was taking away from football.’’
Asked whether it was hard to leave so much money on the table, Hester said: ‘‘It is, but this is my main job. What’s more important?’’
Still, Hester’s decision doesn’t go unnoticed at home.
‘‘My wife gets on me because I turn down so many deals and photo shoots and commercials,’’ he said.
That, though, is another element Hester won’t sacrifice.
During the season, players often work six days a week. They might arrive at 6 a.m. for a workout, practice twice, attend multiple meetings, then leave after 6 p.m. And Hester might linger at Halas Hall because he doesn’t like to take his work home.
‘‘Once I leave here, I want to be a family guy,’’ he said after a recent practice. ‘‘Once I leave this facility, football is over. It’s family time.’’
Hester is serious about making sure he spends quality time with his son, Devin Jr. In fact, he started writing a monthly column in April for Chicago Parent magazine. The column, ‘‘Hangin’ With Devin,’’ chronicles the adventures of father and son.
A proud papa, Hester regularly posts pictures and videos of his son on his Twitter and Sports Buzz accounts. Devin Jr. will be 2 in November.
Taking success in stride
Coach Lovie Smith said he didn’t know Hester had ended his endorsement deals.
‘‘It hasn’t been an issue,’’ Smith said. ‘‘If they are doing something and it won’t affect what they’re doing here, I trust them.
‘‘But I’m happy for Devin if that’s what’s going to put him in the frame of mind to have a successful season.’’
Hester has only seven catches for 139 yards in the Bears’ first four games, but he keyed their 34-29 victory against the Panthers.
After the Panthers tied the score at 10 early in the second quarter, Hester rumbled through an arm tackle and gained 73 yards on the kickoff. Three plays later, running back Matt Forte scored on a 17-yard run.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, Hester fielded a low kick from Panthers punter Jason Baker.
‘‘It’s the kind of kick you dream about,’’ Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub said. ‘‘I mean, it was right down the middle and not high.’’
Punters make mistakes all the time, but Hester showed why he’s the best returner in NFL history. His blockers were set up for a return to the left, but Hester initially started right to help them set up the Panthers.
‘‘He’s so good,’’ Toub said. ‘‘You have to respect him.’’
Hester scored on a 69-yard return to give him the record.
Hester said another reason he scaled back on his endorsement deals was to try to blend in.
‘‘I don’t want a lot of attention; I want to be low-key,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to go to the grocery store with my family and not be bothered.’’
That’ll be hard to do, though,
as long as he continues making
big plays and showing up on highlight clips.