Former Thomson star Ray Guy elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame




The man considered the greatest punter to ever play the game is finally going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Ray Guy, the legendary punter who starred at Thomson High School before finding fame in college and the NFL, was elected Saturday in New York by the 46-member selection committee.

Guy spent 14 seasons with the Raiders in the NFL, first in Oakland and then Los Angeles. He is the first pure punter to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he joins placekicker Jan Stenerud as the only specialists in the hall.

Also elected Saturday were Michael Strahan, Andre Reed, Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks, Aeneas Williams and Claude Humphrey.

They will join Guy in the enshrinement ceremonies Aug. 2 in Canton, Ohio.

Guy, 64, was in his 23rd year of eligibility and was a senior nominee. To be elected, he had to receive at least 80 percent of the vote.

The road to Canton has been a bumpy one for Guy. First eligible in 1992, he was a finalist seven times but fell short each time. Despite his on-field success, some voters felt that his role was too specialized and not worthy of the hall of fame.

Guy, who took his previous snubs in stride, always asked the same question of the voters.

“If that is not a position, don’t have it,” Guy once said. “If it’s not important, why in the hell have them? Why spend the time drafting them? Why spend money on them?”

Guy led the NFL in punting three times, was an All-Pro six times and finished his career with an average of 42.4 yards per punt.

His booming punts helped introduce the term hang time into football’s vocabulary, and he was adept at angling his punts to give his team field position. During a Pro Bowl game in New Orleans, Guy became the first punter to hit the Louisiana Superdome scoreboard that hung 90 feet from the playing surface.

In 2000, the Augusta Sports Council created the Ray Guy Award to honor the top collegiate punter. The group sought to bring recognition for Guy and to raise awareness for the position of punter.

“We are beyond thrilled for our hometown hero, Ray, for his family and for the awareness that this prestigious honor of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame brings to the punting position and the award,” Brinsley Thigpen, chief executive officer of the sports council, said in a statement. “Congratulations!”

The hall of fame’s newest class was introduced during a two-hour awards show that was televised Saturday night.

Guy will join fellow Raiders Marcus Allen, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Al Davis, Mike Haynes, Ted Hendricks, Howie Long, John Madden, Jim Otto, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw in the hall of fame.

The legend of Guy began nearly 50 years ago at Thomson High School. Born in Swainsboro, Ga., his family lived in Warrenton and moved to Thomson before he was in high school.

For the Bulldogs, Guy was a talented athlete who excelled in football, basketball and baseball. He also ran track.

But it was on the football field that Guy really stood out. He was a natural punter and kicker who learned the fundamentals from his high school coach Paul Leroy.

As a junior quarterback, Guy led Thomson to the program’s first state championship in 1967. He sat out the first three quarters of the title game against Westminster because of a broken bone in his left wrist, save for punting, but entered in the final quarter and scored a touchdown and sparked the Bulldogs to a 20-0 win.

In 1968, Guy led the Bulldogs to another undefeated season. In the South Georgia title game, Guy outplayed future college and NFL coach Chan Gailey as Thomson drilled Americus, 34-7.

A week later, Guy literally did it all as the Bulldogs defeated Carrollton, 7-6, in the Class A championship game. Guy scored the Bulldogs’ only touchdown on a 1-yard run, then kicked the extra point.

Carrollton scored but Guy blocked the point-after attempt, and late in the game the Trojans had a chance to win. But the 6-3 Guy blocked the field goal attempt, and Thomson ran out the clock.

Guy had numerous college scholarship offers, but chose Southern Miss because its coaches would allow him to do more than just punt. For the Golden Eagles, Guy played defensive back and intercepted 18 passes in his career. He also was a standout pitcher, and hurled a no-hitter in his college career.

But it was his punting prowess that gained national attention and earned him first-team All-America honors in 1972 when he led the nation with an average of 46.2 yards.

Those gaudy punting numbers caught the attention of Al Davis, owner and general manager of the Oakland Raiders. In the 1973 NFL Draft, Davis made the unheard of move to draft the punter in the first round (23rd overall).

The gamble paid off as Guy helped the Raiders win three Super Bowls during his 14 seasons with the team. Long before statistics were kept on punts inside the 20, Guy was skilled at “flipping the field” and giving his team superior field position.

Of his 1,049 career punts in the NFL, none were ever returned for a touchdown, such was his skill at hang time and angle. He would routinely sacrifice distance in favor of pinning opponents deep in their own territory.

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