Guy finally gets some recognition

  • Follow Scott Michaux

For probably 15 minutes, Ray Guy talked with relish about his new job working for his alma mater, Southern Mississippi.

For a few more he gushed about the collegiate punting award that is named after him and was presented Thursday night to Oklahoma State senior Matt Fodge.

For a few seconds the Thomson native and NFL punting legend casually summed up what it means to be enshrined in the second class of the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame.

"Well, that's a start, ain't it?" Guy said with a laugh.

As anyone familiar with football knows, there has never been a pure punter inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Nobody's ever come as close as Guy has, reaching the final ballot seven times without election. He's the only punter ever to get that far. He's the only punter ever drafted in the first round. He's the only punter anybody could ever imagine being worthy of such recognition.

So the 59-year-old Guy gets to be the only punter annually kicked in the gut when the so-called experts continue to exclude him from the place he deserves to be.

"Canton, Ohio, has every position there except for one," Guy said. "I talk about this all the time, but I just don't understand. I'm not talking about myself. I'm just talking about the punter position."

That's pretty much the reason that the Greater Augusta Sports Council teamed with Prokicker.com to create the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame last year to honor the overlooked. After enshrining the inaugural five-man class last May, they corrected the most glaring omission by including Guy along with pioneer kicking specialist Ben Agajanian and the original soccer-style practitioner Pete Gogolak.

So on Thursday night at the Augusta Marriott Hotel and Suites, in front of the best high school players the region has to offer and NFL safety Deon Grant out of Josey, Guy got to receive recognition himself instead of handing it out to other up-and-coming punters as he's done for the past nine years.

The funny thing is, it's the handing out of the Ray Guy Award that tickles him the most.

"What I'm elated about is the recognition these kids are given," Guy said. "I want to bring it to the front. They are a part of the team just like any other athletes. They may not be as continuous a part of the game, but that's one part. What I want is to instill in them that you are part of that team regardless of the cliche you always hear that a punter is not a part of the team. It gives them a purpose."

Guy's purpose these days is serving Southern Miss. He moved back to Hattiesburg, Miss., last spring to take on a post helping his alma mater prepare for the 100th anniversary of the school's charter in 2010. He admits that his new job has required him to do more studying than he ever did as a student.

"They let me do what I do best, which is running my mouth," Guy said. "I'm just giving back to Southern what I got, which was a chance."

Guy is quite good at telling tales. In speaking engagements he'll share with everyone how what was originally called Normal College got its charter in 1910 and finally opened in 1912.

"And they had the first football game that September," he said. "We won it. Beat the Boy Scouts."

Guy is such a part of the Southern Miss community that he was asked to pose for a picture in the 2009 calendar for the university's symphony.

"I'm July," he said.

Really what Guy likes to do is the same thing that his award does -- give young students a purpose. He's always talking to young student-athletes trying to convince them that they have to prepare for a life beyond the games of their youth. Most of them will never have a 14-year NFL career to build a foundation for their future.

"When the leave school and cross that curb, it's a different world," he said. "They've got to be ready for that."

Guy's world will always involve football. He'll always have those three Super Bowl rings with the Raiders. He'll always have his place on the NFL's 75th Anniversary team. He'll always have his award to present and bring him back home to talk about football.

Eventually he'll have a bust in Canton, Ohio. It might have to wait until his current eligibility runs out in four years and he graduates into the less stigmatizing senior category, but it will surely happen.

For now he'll at least have a place in the American Football Kicking Hall of Fame to tide him over.

It's a start.

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

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