Hall of Fame NFL punter Ray Guy dead at age 72

Legendary National Football League punter Ray Guy, arguably the best to ever play that position, passed away this week at the age of 72, Fox News reported.

Guy, the first punter ever inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the first to be drafted in the first round, is also the namesake of the annual award for the best punter in college football.

Star college athlete

The University of Southern Mississippi, Guy’s alma mater, announced Thursday that the star punter had died following an undisclosed “lengthy illness.”

Born in 1949 in Thomson, Georgia, Guy was a record-setting standout athlete at Southern Miss from 1970-1972 who, in addition to his role as a punter, was also a star defensive back who holds a school record for eight interceptions in a season and a kicker who has a school record for a 61-yard field goal. He was also a star pitcher for the school’s baseball team who once pitched a no-hitter — a feat accomplished only six times in the school’s history.

Following his retirement from professional football, Guy returned to Southern Miss as a star alumnus and was heavily involved in the school’s activities, and in 2015, had the street in front of the university’s athletic center renamed in his honor as Ray Guy Way.

An incredible NFL career

ESPN reported that in 1973, the then-Oakland Raiders defied convention and drafted Guy as a punter with the 23rd pick of the first round, which proved to be a wise move, as he spent the entirety of his stellar 14-year career with the Raiders organization and helped the team win three Super Bowl championships.

Throughout that career, Guy was selected as a first-team All-Pro three times, was selected to play in the Pro Bowl seven times, and was named to the NFL’s 1970s all-decade team as well as to the league’s 100th Anniversary team, among other honors.

Ironically enough, his career stats don’t quite tell the full story of how dominant he was as a punter, but that stems in part from the fact that certain relevant statistics for punters weren’t tracked for his first three seasons in the NFL.

Nevertheless, his high-arcing punts introduced “hang time” into football terminology, according to Southern Miss, and Guy closed out his career with a streak of 619 punts without a single block, while also kicking punts inside the 20-yard line 210 times and only punting a touchback into the endzone 128 times.

Hall of Fame inductee

After being passed over by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for many years, Guy, who retired in 1986, was finally inducted in 2014, according to ESPN. He is also an inductee of the College Football Hall of Fame and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.

The late, great John Madden, who was Guy’s coach with the Raiders, said at his induction that “Ray Guy was a football player who punted.” He also said that Guy was the “best punter I’ve ever known,” and added, “When we first drafted him, it was a heck of a choice. I thought then he could be the greatest in the league, but I changed my mind. I think Ray proved he’s the best of all time.”