(Photos courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)
Talk of Fame Network
Ray Guy waited 28 years to become the first punter enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Guy was an eight-time finalist – the first seven as a modern-era candidate before finally collecting his bust as a senior candidate in the Class of 2014.
The wait for Canton by the next punter should not be as long, frustrating or painful as it was for Guy. And that next punter should be Jerrel Wilson. He was Ray Guy before there was a Ray Guy at Southern Miss, and Ray Guy before there was a Ray Guy in the NFL.
Nicknamed “Thunderfoot,” Wilson punted 16 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1963 through 1977. He was named the punter on the AFL all-decade team in the 1960s and joined Guy as the two punters on the NFL all-decade team in the 1970s. Wilson led the league in punting an NFL-record four times, one more than Guy, and had a better career average (43.0) than Guy (42.4).
Wilson went to three AFL All-Star Games in the 1960s and three more Pro Bowls in the 1970s. His run of all-star appearances came to an end in 1973 at 32 when Guy arrived in the NFL as a first-round draft pick of the Raiders. Guy would go to seven Pro Bowls in his career.
Wilson was a member of Kansas City’s spectacular 1963 draft class. The Chiefs selected Hall-of-Famers Buck Buchanan and Bobby Bell and AFL all-decade guard Ed Budde in addition to Wilson. Buchanan and Budde were first-round picks; Bell a seventh-rounder and Wilson an 11th.
That draft class became the backbone of a team that would win two AFL titles and appear in two Super Bowls the remainder of the decade. The Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl to Green Bay but won the fourth one against Minnesota in the final game ever played by an AFL team. Wilson averaged 46.5 yards on 11 punts in those two Super Bowls, launching a 61-yard kick against the Packers and a 59-yarder against the Vikings.
Wilson gave the Chiefs half of arguably the greatest 1-2 kicking punch in NFL history, teaming with placekicker Jan Stenerud for 11 seasons from 1967 through 1977. Stenerud is the only placekicker in the Hall of Fame and went in as a first-ballot selection. Toss in Noland “Super Gnat” Smith as the returner in the late 1960s, and Hall-of-Fame coach Hank Stram assembled one of the greatest special teams ever — and that was before anyone was paying attention to special teams.
Wilson punted at Southern Miss from 1961-62 and Guy from 1970-72. The Chiefs were attracted to Wilson because of his booming hang times. The ball exploded off his foot and seemed to carry forever. He set franchise records for punting average in a game (56.5 yards), season (46.1 yards) and career. Wilson booted a career long 72-yard punt in his rookie year and added two more 70s in his career.
He punted 1,072 times in his career, 23 more than Guy. Was Wilson better than Guy? It doesn’t matter. There ought to be a place in Canton for two punters. Unlike Guy, Wilson has never been a finalist for the Hall of Fame, but maybe now Guy’s enshrinement has cracked the door for Wilson. His candidacy deserves to be — and needs to be — discussed.