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The NFL's Punters (Finally) Land One In The Hall Of Fame

Punter Ray Guy, No. 8 of the Los Angeles Raiders, kicks the ball past the Denver Broncos' rush during a 1985 game. Guy has officially been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
George Rose
Getty Images
Punter Ray Guy, No. 8 of the Los Angeles Raiders, kicks the ball past the Denver Broncos' rush during a 1985 game. Guy has officially been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ray Guy, a gifted athlete who became the prototype of an NFL punter in the 1970s and 80s, is officially being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, becoming the first full-time punter ever invited into the institution in Canton, Ohio.

At 64, Guy's enshrinement ends more than two decades of waiting to be recognized by the Hall of Fame. Last night, his golden Hall of Fame jacket was presented to him by his former Oakland Raiders coach, John Madden, the man who drafted him in the first round back in 1973.

To those who watched Ray Guy play during his 14-year career — and those who know that college football's award for the best punter is named after him — it might seem long overdue that Guy is now being recognized by the Hall. Consider these stats:

  • Of his 1,049 career punts, only three were blocked.
  • He won three Super Bowls with the Raiders.
  • Guy kicked for more than 3,000 yards in 9 seasons — and once for more than 4,000.
  • He led the NFL in punting for three seasons and played in seven Pro Bowls.
  • In addition, Guy used power and accuracy to hang the ball in the air — often landing it along the sideline, negating a return. But he played in an era before the "inside the 20" stat for punters was recorded.

    Guy's lanky 6'3" frame also helped him save high snaps — most memorably in Super Bowl XVIII, when he leaped to snare the ball with one hand. He then sent a 42-yard kick downfield to help sink the Washington Redskins.

    Coming out of the University of Southern Mississippi in 1973, Guy was an athlete who had been drafted by several Major League Baseball teams after high school. As an article at his website notes, he was a pitcher with accuracy — and a fastball that approached 100 mph.

    "I'd have probably enjoyed playing baseball, but football was my chosen life, and I had to go from doing pretty much everything to doing one thing," Guy tells the WBUR sports show Only A Game.

    He continued:

    "But that one thing was very important, because I knew all through my life how important it was. I made it into a — I wouldn't call it dominating position — but I knew I could change field position and help the team win, in any circumstances where it's in the middle of the field or backed up in the end zone. That didn't bother me. Just bring it on, let's go with it."

    In recent years, Madden, his former coach, has advocated for putting Guy in the Hall, explaining in 2009 how the punter had helped his offense:

    "I used to tell our quarterback ... if it gets to third down, just throw the ball away. The worst thing we have to do is let Ray Guy kick it — and that's pretty good."

    Speaking to SFGate yesterday, Madden said Guy had tried to play defense while in Oakland, as he'd done in college. And he added, "He threw harder than [Ken] Stabler."

    "There is no question he was a real football player," the former coach said. "I just didn't let him play. He was too valuable as a punter."

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.