By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame network
When the Hall of Fame inducts seven new members Aug. 2 it finally … and thankfully … corrects an oversight that stood for years — namely, keeping Ray Guy out of Canton.
Guy was more than the game’s best punter. He was a regrettable omission, someone who should have been admitted to the Hall long ago. But he wasn’t, and don’t ask me why. All I know is that he failed seven times as a finalist before the Hall of Fame’s seniors committee rescued him this year and pushed him through on his eighth — and, presumably, final — try.
That was good. Keeping him out over 25 years was not. But the Hall did what it should have and put the game’s premier punter where he belongs — in bronze.
Look, I don’t care what you think about punters, but Guy was the best at what he did — one reason the NCAA named an award honoring the country’s best punter after him. Guy wasn’t just a six-time All-Pro and all-decade choice; he was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team by the Hall of Fame’s board of selectors. Yet it was that same board of selectors that kept him out until now, and go figure.
One reporter told me he didn’t believe punters belonged in Canton because they participated in five, maybe six snaps a game. OK, fine. Try playing without one. Another asked if I’d seen Guy’s numbers. I told him I did, but if it were just numbers that defined greatness maybe we should save everyone time and hire CPAs to make these decisions.
More importantly, I told him, I saw Ray Guy play. And what I saw was more than a punter; Ray Guy was an innovator who, as former teammate Fred Biletnikoff put it, “set the standard for all punters to follow” — an argument our Ron Borges sold to the board of selectors when he presented Guy in February.
“Ray Guy,” said a current AFC special-teams coach, “was a game changer who could change field position with one kick. He was ahead of his time. The game today is all about field position, so why is he any different than an Emmitt Smith or Barry Sanders when it comes to changing a game?
“This isn’t Garo Yepremian we’re talking about. This is a guy who could do anything and could dominate people. There’s no question in my mind he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”
Years ago I was talking to a colleague about Guy’s exclusion from the Hall when a middle-aged man seated to my left interrupted us.
“Excuse me,” he said. “My name’s Jeff Bostic. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and I wanted to make sure I heard you right. Did you say Ray Guy’s not in the Hall of Fame?”
I told him I did. It was then that Bostic, a former center for Washington, recalled a game where Guy leaped for a snap that started to sail six feet over his head, somehow caught the ball with one hand, then brought it down to launch a missile. He said he never forgot that, thinking then he’d just seen the greatest punter of all time.
He did. Now, the Hall of Fame will make it official, and hallelujah. It’s about time.
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*Photo courtesy of the Oakland Raiders