Ray Guy, the first player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, dies at age 72

Ray Guy, the first player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Thursday. It was 72.

Southern Mississippi, where Guy starred before becoming the first player taken in the first round of the NFL draft, said he died after a long illness. He had received treatment at a hospice in the Hattiesburg area.

Guy was drafted 23rd overall by Al Davis’ Raiders in 1973 and played his entire 14-year career with the team. He was a three-time All-Pro selection. In 2014, he became the first player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame solely for his punting.

Los Angeles Raiders - Washington Redskins
Ray Guy #8 of the Los Angeles Raiders snaps the ball against Washington during an NFL football game on October 2, 1983 at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC.

Focus on Sport/Getty Images


“That’s right, much was written when Ray Guy was enshrined in Canton about how his election as the first true player created a ‘full roster’ of players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, too often overlooked is the man behind his power play .right leg,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said.

“Ray was a warm, humble Southern gentleman who represented the game, the Raiders organization and the Hall of Fame with dignity and class at all times,” he said.

“A truly gifted athlete, he could have been a star in Major League Baseball or pro basketball. NFL fans thank Ray for choosing to focus on football,” Porter said.

Guy was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team and the 1970s Team. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion and a seven-time Pro Bowl selection.

As CBSSports.com notes, Guy’s best play in the NFL may have come in Super Bowl XVIII, when he made a one-handed catch before going 40-plus yards to prevent a potential Washington touchdown. The Raiders ended up winning 38-9.

A native of Thomson, Georgia, Guy is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame.

At Southern Mississippi, Guy also played defensive back. He still shares the school record for most interceptions in a season with eight in 1972.

Guy finished his NFL career in 1986 with a streak of 619 punts without blocking one. But it took nearly three decades for him to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He was a finalist for induction seven times starting in 1992 without being voted in and didn’t even make it that far on other occasions.

“That bothered me because they were saying it’s not a position, you don’t need an athlete to do it, it’s not important,” Guy said before his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2014.

“That really got under my skin. It wasn’t so much whether I did it or not. I wish someone had. I just knew they didn’t care,” she said.

“That steadied me a little.”

The guy in many ways revolutionized the position.

His kicks went so high that one that hit the Superdome scoreboard 90 feet above the field in a Pro Bowl helped put time into the football vernacular. His ability to stick the opposition deep with either high kicks or well placed ones was a key part of the success for the great Raiders teams of the 1970s and 80s.

“It was something that was given to me. I don’t know how,” he said. “I’m really blessed in this category. It’s something that I really appreciate and I’ve promoted it and made it into something great.”

Guy’s stats look a bit paltry compared to today’s players. His career average of 42.4 yards per punt ranks 61st all-time, and his net average of 32.2 yards (excluding his first three seasons, when the stat was not kept by the NFL) is not even in the top 100.

However, he is still considered by many to be the best to ever play the position.

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