Ray Guy, the first punter to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died on Thursday. He was 72 years old.
Southern Mississippi, where Guy played before becoming the first punter ever taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, said he died after a long illness. He was receiving care at a hospice in the Hattiesburg area.
Guy was drafted 23rd overall by the Al Davis Raiders in 1973 and played his entire 14-year career with the team. He was a three-time All-Pro selection. In 2014, he became the first player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame exclusively for his punting.
“Appropriately, much was written when Ray Guy was enshrined in Canton about how his election as the first true bettor created a ‘complete roster’ of players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Too often overlooked, however, was the man behind his mighty right leg,” Hall of Fame chairman Jim Porter said in a statement.
“Ray was a warm and humble Southern gentleman who represented the game, the Raiders organization and the Hall of Fame with dignity and class at all times,” he said.
“A truly gifted athlete, he could have been a star in Major League Baseball or professional basketball. NFL fans thank Ray for choosing to focus on football,” Porter said.
Guy was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and All-Decade Team of the 1970s. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion and a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.
As CBSSports.com notes, Guy’s greatest play in the NFL may have come in Super Bowl XVIII, when he successfully fired a one-handed high kick before punting more than 40 yards and prevent a possible touchdown in Washington. The Raiders ended up winning the game, 38-9.
A native of Thomson, Georgia, Guy is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
At South Mississippi, Guy also played defensive back. He still shares the single-season school record for most interceptions with eight in 1972.
Guy ended his NFL career in 1986 with a streak of 619 punts without having one blocked. But it took nearly three decades for him to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He was a runner-up for induction seven times from 1992 without being voted in and didn’t even make it that far on other occasions.
“It kind of bothered me because they were saying it’s not a position, you don’t need an athlete to do it, it’s not important,” Guy said before his induction into the Temple. of fame in 2014.
“That’s what really got to me. It wasn’t so much whether I did it or not. I wish someone had done it. It was just knowing that they were ok. ‘didn’t care,’ he said.
“That’s what pissed me off a bit.”
Guy revolutionized the post in many ways.
His kicks went so high that the one that hit the Superdome scoreboard 90 feet above the field in a Pro Bowl helped put “hang time” in football vernacular. His ability to pin the opposition deep with high or well-placed kicks was a key element to the success of the great Raiders teams of the 1970s and 80s.
“It’s something that was given to me. I don’t know how,” he said. “I’m really blessed in this category. It’s something that I really enjoy and I’ve taken it forward and made something great out of it.”
Guy’s stats seem somewhat mundane compared to today’s bettors. His career average of 42.4 yards per kick ranks 61st all-time and his net average of 32.2 yards (excluding his first three seasons when the stat was not retained by the NFL) isn’t even in the top 100.
Yet he is still considered by many to be the best to ever play in that position.