Ray Guy—Punter for Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 1973–1986
Some might say he is a punter and shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because punters are insignificant and don’t have a real impact on a game. I wouldn’t agree with that statement and I would argue that his career statistics prove that statement incorrect.
Let’s ponder a punter's importance for a moment. I take you back to Super Bowl XVIII—arguably his best performance—against the Washington Redskins. When the Raiders' offense faltered just outside the range of placekicker Chris Bahr, Guy, known for his power, showed a great deal of finesse by booting a 27-yard punt that pinned the Redskins on their own 12-yard line late in the first half.
On the very next play, Raiders’ linebacker Jack Squirek intercepted Washington QB Joe Theisman and ran it in for a touchdown that gave them a 21-3 halftime lead. The Raiders would eventually win 38-9.
He was the first pure punter drafted in the first round. Several experts scoffed at the selection and said that the Raiders made a mistake in selecting him in the first round. Listed below are just some of career accolades.
Played in 207 consecutive games
Punted 1,049 times for 44,493 yards, averaging 42.4 yards per punt, with a 33.8 net yards average
Had 210 punts inside the 20-yard line (Not counting his first three seasons, when the NFL didn’t keep track of this stat), with just 128 touchbacks
Led the NFL in punting three times
Had a streak of 619 consecutive punts before having one blocked
Has a record of 111 career punts in post season games
Had five punts of over 60 yards during the 1981 season
Never had a punt returned for a touchdown
Ray Guy was selected to seven AFC Pro Bowl teams and was the punter on the National Football Leagues 75th anniversary team in 1994. He was a nine time All-Pro selection and was a key member on three Super Bowl championship teams.
He was named to the NFL’s 1970’s All Decade Team. He has been inducted to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the National High School Sports Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame. In 1994 he was the first pure punter to be nominated for enshrinement.
He was an outstanding placekicker at Southern Mississippi University, once kicking a then-record 61-yard field goal in a snowstorm during a game in Utah. Upon completion of his senior season at Southern Mississippi, he was named the MVP of the annual college All-Star game. This was when a group of senior college All-Stars would play the Super Bowl champion.
In addition to his kicking prowess, he was a starter at safety for USM. As a senior he intercepted a USM record eight passes, and was named an All-American defensive back. He played quarterback in his early years and was the last string emergency quarterback for the Raiders.
Ironically he replaced kicker-quarterback George Blanda at that position. Early in Guy’s career he would occasionally kickoff for the Raiders when it was apparent that George Blanda no longer had the range to kickoff.
Ray Guy was a punter that used picture perfect technique and a tremendous leg whip to kick the ball high and keep it there so long that there was little chance of a return. It was his hang time and placement that made him dangerous on the field.
He was able to effectively pin the opponent deep in their own territory, and if the defense upheld their part of the bargain, the Raiders invariably won the exchange of punts and the field position battle. In the 1976 Pro Bowl, one of his punts hit the giant TV screen hanging from the rafters in the Louisiana Superdome.
Not only did Ray Guy punt high and far—“hang time” came into the NFL lexicon during his tenure. He once had an opponent take a ball he punted tested for helium!
“I was never much on hang-time until we got Ray, but then we started clocking how long his punt hung in the air. Sometimes he kept it up there for six seconds!” A quote from John Madden, Former Raider Head Coach.
He placed an astonishing 57 punts inside the 20-yard line during the 1984-85 season. The career statistics are phenomenal but even more impressive is that here is a guy whose only concern was helping his team win games.
“He’s the first punter you could look at and say, He won games.” A quote from Joe Horrigan, Pro Football Hall of Fame Historian.
The College Punter of the Year award is now called the Ray Guy Award.
He has proven his greatness for years, but taking you back to another stellar play, the Super Bowl XVIII. He helped the Raiders avoid a catastrophe early in the second quarter when he soared in the air, stretching out his 6’3” frame, making a one-handed catch of a high snap.
After he landed, the athletic Ray Guy kicked a 42-yard punt. He now runs a kicking academy and has several speaking engagements. He is the greatest punter in NFL history and it is shameful that he isn’t in the Hall of Fame.