MIAMI - Like actors accepting Oscars, NFL players and coaches have people to thank when they arrive on the game's biggest stage.
That's where Devin Hester and Dave Toub found themselves yesterday as the league held its annual Super Bowl media day at Dolphin Stadium in preparation for Sunday's NFL title game between the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.
Hester, the Chicago rookie who broke an NFL record with six returns for touchdowns this season, should have thanked the Tennessee Titans for this week's triumphant return to South Florida, where he played high school and college football.
The Titans, with the 45th overall pick in the second round, told Hester in April that they were going to draft him. As Tennessee's draft clock ticked toward zero, Hester prepared for his big moment by slipping on his fitted Titans cap.
"The last 20 seconds before the clock ran out, they called me back and said they were going with somebody else," Hester said.
The Titans chose Southern California running back LenDale White. Hester slipped 12 more spots before going to the Bears.
"I would say it was probably one of the worst things I ever felt," Hester said.
It no doubt cost him some signing-bonus money, but things have worked out well for Hester and the Bears, which means things also have worked out well for Toub, who is Chicago's special-teams coordinator.
Toub should thank Hester, and he does.
"A lot of what he does is instincts," Toub said. "I wish I could sit here and say it was all coaching, but it's not."
Toub also is grateful to John Harbaugh and Andy Reid, the men he worked under during his three seasons as a special-teams assistant with the Eagles.
"I owe everything to John," Toub said.
Reid had worked with Toub at Texas-El Paso and later at the University of Missouri in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and they remained in touch over the years, which is how he ended up on the Eagles' staff in 2001.
When Toub interviewed for the Bears' job in 2004, he didn't know Bears head coach Lovie Smith or general manager Jerry Angelo.
"No, I didn't, but we were very successful at Philadelphia . . . and I think the Chicago Bears were intrigued by the idea of John Harbaugh's whole system," Toub said.
The Eagles, with Harbaugh recently vacating his job as special-teams coordinator to become a secondary coach, may be interested in getting Toub to return to Philadelphia to take charge of the special teams. His contract with the Bears expires after this season, but he's obviously uncomfortable talking about the speculation.
"We had a real-estate agent call my wife last night," Toub said. "It's all speculation. I'm a Chicago Bear, and that's where I want to be. We have great players and we're in the Super Bowl. Why would I want to leave here?"
Special teams could be the X factor for the Bears in this Super Bowl. It's the one area in which Chicago is the superior team. The Colts were atrocious during the regular season at covering kickoffs and punts. They ranked 29th in the league at covering kicks, with their opponents' average starting position beyond the 30-yard line.
Colts punter Hunter Smith had a net punting average of 34.4 yards, which ranked 30th in the league. It wouldn't be surprising if he was instructed to boot the football out of bounds to keep Hester from getting his hands on it Sunday.
On the other hand, Hester can be a little shaky when fielding punts. Counting the Bears' two postseason games, the rookie returner mishandled a total of 11 kicks this season, and he was fortunate to lose only two of them.