Guy misses cut

THOMSON - Ray Guy is a man on a mission.

And Saturday's announcement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2007 - sans Guy, perhaps the greatest punter ever - just reinforced his passion: He wants respect for punters.

"What really bothers me about that whole scenario ... they do not recognize this as a position," the 57-year-old former Pro Bowler said Saturday, after spending the day gathered at his Thomson home with his family and a small group of friends.

"If you are not going to recognize it, why even have it? ... Why even draft it? I've held this back for a long time. The more I'm in it from year to year to year, the more it aggravates me."

The 2007 inductees - Gene Hickerson, Michael Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Charlie Sanders, Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli - were announced during a Saturday afternoon news conference.

Guy was aiming to be the first punter even inducted into the Hall of Fame.

When the inductees were announced , Guy wasn't even in front of a television. He was outside talking to his older brother.

"I'll be honest with you, when I woke up this morning, I kind of had a feeling," he said.

The Hall of Fame voting committee - made up of media members from across the nation - had a list of 17 players, including 15 from the modern era, to cull down to the final six Saturday. The first cut, which took the list from 17 to 11, took about six hours. Guy was eliminated on first vote .

"It's not for me," he said. "I'm speaking for punters from way back to punters in college who look forward to this day. ... If they have nothing to look forward to, why even recognize (the position)?"

This was the sixth time Guy has advanced to the final 15 candidates.

The first punter ever selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in 1973, Guy retired in 1986 with three Super Bowl rings, seven Pro Bowl appearances. Since his retirement, Guy has been named to various all-NFL teams.

In recent years, his name has appeared on an award - started by The Greater Augusta Sports Council - which honors the best Division I college punter .

Through the award and his Ray Guy/ Kicking Academy, he's working to instill in young players that education , skill and, of course, their position matter .

And when he receives an e-mail thanking him for the work he's done with a player at a camp, it helps put days like Saturday in perspective .

"I'm very proud of the camps," he said.

"But I'm going to work harder ... to instill in these players their importance. My job is never done."

Staff Writer Chris Gay contributed to this article.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 597-0335.



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