“ For the love of the Game is why I am now satisfied that I gave it my all.”
HATTIESBURG, Miss. — Former Southern Miss standout Ray Guy will make history, becoming the first NFL punter inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After earning 80 percent of the vote from the 46-member selection committee on Feb. 1, Guy reached a milestone in his life and stood as a role model for some in the process.
I am proud to be the leader for young athletes with a dream to make it to the Hall of Fame,” Guy stated in the interview. “ It feels great to be the first punter inducted as this is a ‘New Beginning’ for us.”
Guy’s stellar career dates back to his high school days at Thomson High School before establishing himself as premier college football player at Southern Miss and later in the NFL with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.
Before going pro, the former Golden Eagle played defensive back as well as punter. In fact, The Thomson, Ga., native still holds the single-season record for most interceptions in a season with eight and career records of the longest punting average in school history with 44.7 yards and second on the list for interceptions with 18.
Although considered the greatest punter of all time, Guy stated playing defensive back was what he came to USM to do and what he wanted to do in the NFL, rather than being a punter.
“ Handling all the kicking chores was another job I did in college,” Guy said. “ If I could have picked my position in the NFL, I would have played defensive back. However, being a punter was just something that just happened.”
Known for his towering punts and coining the phrase “hang time”, Guy was drafted by the Raiders in the first round as the 23rd pick overall in the 1973 NFL Draft, becoming the first punter ever selected in the first round.
During his remarkable 14-year NFL career with the Raiders, the six-time All-Pro athlete and seven-time Pro Bowl selection played in three Super Bowls (XI, XV, XVIII) played in all 207 games of his NFL career and tied for the fifth longest tenure (1973-86) with the Raiders organization.
Guy said he enjoyed every minute playing for the Oakland Raiders. “ Everyone in the organization was great,” Guy stated. “ It was just like one big family, just like my family in which I grew up in.”
Today, Guy still holds the Raiders record for most career punts with 1,049. In addition, he pinned 210 punts inside the 20-yard line with only 128 touchbacks, not counting his first three seasons when the NFL did not record this stat. Even further, he finished his NFL career with 619 consecutive punts without a block.
Despite his noteworthy success, Guy stands as a figure of persistence, stating how difficult those seven years of rejection to the NFL Hall of Fame affected him.
“ It was hard to understand, not because I never got the call, but that some people thought punters were not athletes,” Guy said. “ Because we didn’t play every down in a game or go through what the rest of the players went through in practice, they felt we didn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.”
Guy also mentioned the rejections discouraged him, but instead, he kept his feelings to himself and remained persistent in his dream to be in the Hall of Fame.
“ I kept telling younger punters of this generation that one day, a punter would be selected into the Hall of Fame, I just didn’t know when,” Guy said. “ I knew sooner or later someone would wake up and say these guys (punters) are important and more times than none, we make a difference in tough game situations.”
Guy constantly gives back to the youth and younger athletes in the community.
“ I work with young athletes every summer on the finer techniques of kicking and punting a football, offering my ideas and support so they can be prepared for their career in football, not only in high school, but through college and the NFL,” Guy stated.
“ I try to give them what I learned during my life and how to make it simpler than complicated.”
As he prepares to add the NFL Hall of Fame to his list of honors, Guy has previously received honors such as being named to the 75th Anniversary NFL All-Time Team as a punter, the 1970s All-Decade Team, the AFL-NFL 1960-1984 All-Star Team and the All-Time NFL Team. In addition, he is a member of the Mississippi, Georgia and National High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Augusta Sports Council named an award in his honor as the top punter in college football every year.
Guy gives much credit to his family for supporting him throughout his career.
“ They have always been there through the good and bad times,” Guy said. “ They are more excited than I am for finally making it into the Hall of Fame and this award is theirs’ just as much as it is mine.”
Guy will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug 2. at 7 p.m. in Canton, Ohio.