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Bears legends Steve McMichael, Devin Hester, and Julius Peppers elected to Hall of Fame

Sports Talk with Marshall Harris: 3 Bears headed to Hall of Fame
Sports Talk with Marshall Harris: 3 Bears headed to Hall of Fame 06:56

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago Bears greats Steve McMichael, Devin Hester, and Julius Peppers were announced as Hall of Fame electees on Thursday.

All three were announced as part of the 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame class at the NFL Honors on Thursday night. They will be inducted at a ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in August.

Peppers was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, while Hester was in his third year of eligibility, and McMichael had been waiting nearly 20 years.

"We are ecstatic and extremely grateful that both Steve McMichael and Devin Hester have been selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Bears President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Warren said in a news release. "Both of these men were transformative football players who have always represented themselves, their families and the Chicago Bears with dignity, class and grace.  Having Steve and Devin become the 31st and 32nd members of our franchise enshrined into Canton is very memorable and special. We would also like to congratulate Julius Peppers on his enshrinement, and we deeply appreciate his positive impact on the Chicago Bears."

Steve McMichael enjoys a respite on the Chicago Bears bench, circa 1991. (Bob Fila/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) Chicago Tribune

McMichael, the defensive tackle nicknamed "Mongo," was a key member of the Bears' vaunted Super Bowl XX champion team and ranks 2nd all-time on the Bears in sacks with 92.5 and 3rd all-time in tackles with 814.

He was a two-time NFL All-Pro and two-time Pro-Bowler in his 15 seasons in the NFL, 12 of them with the Bears.

He has been eligible for the Hall of Fame for nearly two decades, but efforts to get him inducted have taken on greater importance for the Bears in recent years. McMichael has been left paralyzed and unable to speak as he battles ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. He revealed his ALS diagnosis in 2021.

McMichael's wife, Misty, was at the NFL Honors ceremony Thursday night.

"Well, I think he would say, 'Hello, Chicago. Thank you to Chicago. You guys have been so supportive through all these years of him being nominated – and finally being inducted," said Misty McMichael. "It's bittersweet because of the situation he's in. I wish he could be here himself. But I know he's watching from home, and he's got his teammates around him – and we're just so happy. Better late than never."

McMichael was one of three players named finalists by the Hall of Fame's seniors committee for 2024.

"This honor is well deserved and long overdue and we are so happy for Steve and his family," Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey said in the team release. "To be cut by a team early in your career and then go on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a tremendous accomplishment.  Steve showed us all what can be achieved through grit, toughness and hard work, and he has earned his place among game's immortals."

Super Bowl XLI - Indianapolis Colts vs Chicago Bears
Colts Adam Vinatieri dives but can't stop Bears Devin Hester from returning the opening kick-off for a touchdown during Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears at Dolphins Stadium in Miami, Florida on February 4, 2007.  Photo by Steve Grayson/Getty Images

Hester, 41, is considered the best return specialist ever in the NFL, with 20 special teams touchdowns in the regular season, the most in NFL history, including 14 punt return touchdowns, five kick return touchdowns, and one missed field goal returned for a score. He also is the only player in NFL history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown, scoring on the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI against the Colts.

Hester recorded 3,695 punt return yards and 7,333 kick return yards in 11 seasons in the NFL, eight of them with the Bears. He added 3,427 yards and 17 touchdowns on offense, mostly as a wide receiver.

"I'm just excited it's over. This is my third year in the running, and it's just an honor to be up here – just taking every moment in," Hester said Thursday night.

Hester was a three-time NFL All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler.

"Devin revolutionized the game," McCaskey said in the release. "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."

Hester is also the first ever primary return specialist to make it into the hall. The league changed the kickoff rules while he was setting a record with 20 non-offensive career touchdowns.

For Hester, this is about blazing a trail for others.

"To be listed as the first as any position in the NFL – to be the first guy to make it as a returner – not only is it a great honor for me, not only for me, but it opens up doors for the rest of the guys that's in my same caliber," said Hester.

Chicago Bears v St. Louis Rams
Julius Peppers #90 of the Chicago Bears lines up for a play against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on November 24, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. Michael Thomas / Getty Images

Peppers, 44, played most of his career with the Panthers but had 37.5 sacks in his four years with the Bears, including an All-Pro season in 2010 when he had eight sacks in his first year with Chicago.

He ranks fourth all-time in sacks in the NFL, with 159.5. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 and was a three-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler, including three Pro Bowl seasons with the Bears.

"Julius was one of the best free-agent signings in Bears history, and a dominant player on the field," McCaskey said in the release. "Our congratulations to him."

Also Thursday, Bears Care, the charitable arm of the Chicago Bears, announced a charity auction of exclusive Hall of Fame memorabilia from Chicago Bears enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio – including memorabilia from Hester and McMichael.

Bears Care is also making a $76,000 donation to the Les Turner ALS Foundation in McMichael's name.

The Bears now have a league-record 40 members enshrined in Canton – 32 of whom primarily spent their careers in Chicago.

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