Ray Guy made the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a punter.
You can sum up his greatness in that one statement. Punters don’t get the same level of respect as those who play offense or defense, but Guy did. He is considered the greatest punter ever, the template for the position since he broke in with the Oakland Raiders nearly five decades ago. The award given to the best punter in college football is the Ray Guy Award, which is telling.
Guy died at age 72, according to the NFL and University of Southern Mississippi. Southern Miss said he died Thursday morning after a lengthy illness.
Guy was a legend in the sport. That’s a rare level to achieve for a punter.
Guy made history before he ever played an NFL game. He was the first punter ever taken in the first round of the draft. The Raiders took him 23rd overall.
"I thought then he could be the greatest in the league, but I changed my mind," Raiders coach John Madden said, via Southern Miss’ announcement of Guy’s death. "I think Ray proved he’s the best of all time."
That pick paid off right away. Guy was a Pro Bowler as a rookie. He’d make six straight Pro Bowls to start his career, and seven overall.
Guy brought a rare level of athleticism to the position. He played safety in college. He was drafted four different times by Major League Baseball teams as a pitcher. Guy hit a 61-yard field goal in college, which at the time set a new record. He was the Raiders’ emergency quarterback at times.
"I was a good athlete and could have been a Major League pitcher or an NBA basketball player, but I knew God had something special for me," Guy said during his Hall of Fame induction speech. "And eventually one sport would stand out beyond the rest, and it did. Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny, and I never looked back or questioned my decision."
He was a member of all three Raiders Super Bowl championship teams, and that was no coincidence. He consistently flipped field position for the team with his booming punts.
Guy played in the NFL from 1973-86, spending his entire career with the Raiders.
It took Guy a while to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No other primary punter had been in before. But if anyone was to make it as a punter, it was Guy. He was part of the class of 2014. Guy is still the only primary punter in the Hall of Fame.
Guy was also the first punter in the College Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2004.
There are debates about the greatest player at just about every position in NFL history. You won’t get much debate about the punter on the all-time team. Guy is almost unanimously seen as the greatest punter of all time. That’s a special legacy.