I know this is a hectic time of year for the committee. After all, you're busy narrowing the preliminary list of candidates for the 2011 class to 25 of the game's greats. Once that's done, you'll have to whittle the number down to 15. And it just gets tougher from there. But hey, you know the drill.
Given the full plate, I'll cut to the chase. Somehow, there's been an inexplicable omission from the final cut for the better part of two decades. Believe it or not, Ray Guy -- a Thomson native and the greatest punter of the game's modern era -- is not in the NFL Hall of Fame! I know what you're probably thinking: How's that possible? Well, that's what a lot of NFL fans are wondering too.
MAYBE A COMPUTER glitch is to blame, or perhaps Mr. Guy's invitation has been lost in the mail all of these years. Who knows? Regardless, the good news is that there's another opportunity at hand to correct this oversight and induct Ray Guy into the league's Hall of Fame once and for all.
With so many years having passed since his last game in 1986, I thought you might need a refresher on Mr. Guy's credentials.
Drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders in 1973, Ray Guy played in the league for 14 years -- all with the same franchise. During his career, he maintained an average of 42.4 yards per punt; had a streak of 619 punts without having one blocked; played in 207 consecutive games; never had a punt returned for a touchdown; and was selected for seven Pro Bowls.
And while some of Mr. Guy's statistics are impressive -- such as placing 210 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard-line -- they don't appear near the top of today's records and fail to give a complete picture.
That's due to two factors: The NFL didn't track all of these statistics during the early portion of his career; and he played on some of the league's greatest teams with the Raiders (champions of Super Bowls XI, XV and XVIII) -- whose success resulted in more points and fewer opportunities for punts.
NEVERTHELESS, MORE telling than any of the statistical data available on Ray Guy's punting prowess is the revolutionary impact his kicking had on the game. To paraphrase a popular restaurant chain's catchphrase, Ray Guy didn't invent punting -- he just invented punting as a weapon. The terms "hang time" -- the seconds a punt stays aloft in the air -- and "coffin corner kick" -- punting the ball out-of-bounds and near the opposing team's goal line -- became staples of football fans' vocabulary thanks to his unmatched punting power and precision.
In short, Ray Guy's booming punts were like strategic missiles that left opposing teams deep in a hole and with their backs to the wall.
I almost forgot -- Mr. Guy has already received numerous honors for his exceptional contributions to the game. Just a few include induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, as well as those for the states of Georgia and Mississippi; selection for the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team; and selection for the AFL-NFL 1960-1984 All-Star Team. And if that last distinction sounds familiar, it's because Ray Guy received it courtesy of all of you!
BEST OF LUCK with your other selections for the Class of 2011. There certainly are a number of great candidates to consider sending to Canton with Ray Guy next year. Oh, and just let me know if you need any help identifying the glitch that kept Mr. Guy waiting all these years. I'd more than happy to help.
(The writer is a sports public relations executive and a former White House correspondence director.)