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Hall of Fame profile: Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy

NFL: Super Bowl XLVIII-Hall of Fame Class Announcement
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Feb 1, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Oakland Raiders former punter Ray Guy is introduced as an inductee for the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class at the 3rd NFL Honors at Radio Music City Hall. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 gets inducted on Saturday. Shutdown Corner will profile the seven new Hall of Famers this week, looking at each of their careers and their impact on the game.

Ray Guy
Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders, 1973-1986
Punter

Greatest moment

Guy was a member of three Super Bowl-winning teams with the Raiders, and this third championship came in early 1984, when Guy, then a decade into his brilliant career, punted seven times for 299 yards against the Washington Redskins. Guy dropped five of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line, and he saved a high snap on one of them with a one-handed snag.

Guy's punting in that game — several boomers high in the air that mostly were fair caught — epitomized his career. The term "hang time" was developed when Guy became the league's best at hanging the ball in the air to allow the Raiders' coverage teams to diverge on the opposing returner.

Although Guy would play two more seasons, his career hit a zenith on that afternoon in Super Bowl XVIII.

Impact on the game

Raiders head coach John Madden knew he had something special right away in 1973 when Guy ranked second in the NFL in punting average with a gaudy 45.3 yards per kick. Over his first nine NFL seasons, Guy never had a season with an average of less than 41.6 yards. He made the Pro Bowl seven times over that stretch, and he was All Pro six times.

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Raiders punter Ray Guy kicks against the Eagles in Super Bowl XV (AP Photo/File)

Raiders punter Ray Guy kicks against the Eagles in Super Bowl XV (AP Photo/File)

Guy helped put punters in the spotlight. In the old days, punters often played other positions, and yet when Guy entered the league they were mostly specialists. Still, few punters during his era had the precision, leg strength and technique that he did, and his ball placement more often than not put the opposing offense at a disadvantage.

Guy also was the Raiders' emergency quarterback for years, having played the position in college. Madden often said that Guy was an exceptional athlete — and not just among punters.

"The thing that impressed me about him was that he was an athlete, not just some guy that developed a good, strong leg," Madden said.

In a way, Guy helped put a name on the position — his — and a celebrity that punters never really had enjoyed before. He even has a well-respected kicking school he runs now and a college football award for the best Division-I punter named after him.

As the first true punter elected to the Hall of Fame, Guy has taken that celebrity to an even higher level.

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Case against his bust in Canton

There were other contemporaries of Guy's that actually had better career totals or averages, such as the Giants' Dave Jennings and the Falcons' John James. Clearly, the number of punts is as much reflective of a team's poor offense as anything else and has nothing to do with the talent of the man doing the kicking.

Even punting average can be deceiving, as shorter punts can be downed inside the opponents' red zone or high punts can be kept out of the hands of dangerous returners. Even still, Guy's career punting average of 42.4 yards, while good, is tied for 59th all time (although that also includes punters who had far shorter careers as well).  

Case for his bust in Canton

Guy clearly was the best of his era, even if the numbers didn't always bear that out, and there's little doubt that he helped open teams' eyes to punters being more than just players who give it back to the other team's offense. Madden for years has sung Guy's praises as a true game changer and field tilter, and both the numbers and the eye test appear to back those claims up.

"With his ability, he was such a unique and great punter that he changed the way punting was viewed and changed the whole complexion of the game," former Raiders head coach Tom Flores said.

Guy never missed a game in his career, and though he didn't have as strong a leg in his final few seasons, he was as smart and crafty as they come, and he finished his NFL career with a streak of 619 consecutive punts without suffering a block. In fact, only three of his 1,049 punts were blocked in his career.

If there was a better choice for first punter into Canton, we don't know who it should have been.

Notable quote

"He's the first punter you could look at and say: 'He won games.'" — Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan, via RayGuy.net

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014 profiles
Monday:
Michael Strahan
Tuesday: Derrick Brooks
Wednesday: Andre Reed
Thursday: Claude Humphrey; Ray Guy
Friday: Aeneas Williams; Walter Jones

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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