The Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders’ Ray Guy was arguably the greatest punter in National Football League history.
Without a doubt, Guy set the bar high for punters of his era and beyond. His punting excellence eventually gave birth to the term “hang time.”
Guy, a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time First-Team All-Pro selection, led the NFL in punting yardage in 1974, 1975, and 1977.
Guy’s booming punts were also virtually unblockable. He punted 619 straight times without getting blocked from 1979 to 1986.
Guy’s punts were so powerful that one of his punts hit the massive scoreboard overlooking the Louisiana Superdome field during a Pro Bowl game.
Behind Ray Guy’s exploits on special teams, the Raiders won three Super Bowl titles from 1976 to 1983.
Guy, an ironman who played in 207 straight games, eventually became the first full-time kicker to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
This is Ray Guy’s legendary football story.
William Ray Guy was born in Swainsboro, GA on December 22, 1949. He has two brothers: Larry and Al.
When Guy entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH in 2014, he mentioned that his parents were his greatest influences in his enshrinement speech.
Guy’s father was a disciplined and soft-spoken man who was not showy in terms of his emotions. However, Ray and his brothers knew whenever their dad was proud of them.
Ray credited his father for teaching him and his brothers how to become a man, act with confidence, respect others, and practice credibility at all times.
On the other hand, Ray admired his mother for her warmth and strength. Like most mothers, she nurtured her three sons and made sure they had everything they needed when they were growing up in rural Southern Georgia.
Whenever Ray or his brothers acted up, their mother would warn them about their father reprimanding them when he got home. That straightened them out easily. Ray would worry all day about how his dad might whip them at night.
Ray Guy attended Thomson High School in Thomson, GA. He excelled in track, basketball, baseball, and football for the Thomson Bulldogs.
In Guy’s Pro Football Hall of Fame speech, he revealed that nobody really taught him the finer points of punting as his football career progressed.
Thomson Bulldogs head football coach Paul Leroy laid the foundation. He taught Guy basic foot alignment and ball placement for punters. Guy claimed nobody else taught him the other intricacies of punting in his latter years.
Ledendary kicker, hall of fame punter Ray Guy has died. He was 72-years-old. A native of Swainsboro, Georgia, Guy played at Thomson High School before Southern Miss, then the Raiders. He was inducted in Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. @WSAV @NFL @NewsNation @ProFootballHOF pic.twitter.com/tiNuQj9dPR
— Brett Buffington (@BrettWSAV) November 3, 2022
Consequently, Guy honed his punting skills basically by himself well into his iconic career in the National Football League.
Behind Guy’s exploits on special teams, the Bulldogs reached the Georgia Class A state title game in his junior and senior seasons. Ray Guy punted for an average of 49.7 yards as a senior in 1968.
Guy was also brilliant on the mound as a high school pitcher. He held the opposition without a run for fifteen innings in the 1969 state playoff semifinals.
Guy’s pitching abilities caught the attention of several Major League Baseball teams. Four clubs would eventually draft him until the end of his college athletics career in early 1973.
Leroy once convinced Guy to try out for the discus throw event. Ray agreed and eventually won a discus meet for Thomson High.
One day, Guy’s track coaches also taught him triple jump techniques while riding the bus to the track meet. Guy won the triple jump event on his very first attempt.
According to Mississippi Today’s Rick Cleveland, Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles offensive line coach Hamp Cook and former Eagles player Doug Barfield recruited Guy in high school.
“You won’t believe this kid,” Cook told Cleveland and his father in 1969. “The stadiums aren’t big enough. He kicks the ball out of sight.”
Cook and Barfield pried Guy away from the Alabama Crimson Tide’s Bear Bryant and the Georgia Bulldogs’ Vince Dooley.
They won Guy over when they told him he would do a bit of everything with the Eagles. In sharp contrast, Guy would have been solely a kicking specialist with the Crimson Tide or Bulldogs.
Ray Guy eventually committed to the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in his senior season. He would become one of the best all-around players in the school’s football history.
College Days with the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Ray Guy attended the University of Southern Mississippi from 1969 to 1972. He was a two-sport athlete who excelled in baseball and football for the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
Guy played punter, placekicker, and safety for Golden Eagles head football coach P.W. Underwood.
When Underwood sized up Guy for the first time in 1969, he threatened to fire any of his assistants who tried to coach him in punting and kicking, per Mississippi Today.
Ray Guy promptly picked up where he left off in the high school football ranks.
In a 30-14 triumph over the Ole Miss Rebels in 1970, Guy repeatedly pinned the opposition inside their own 10-yard line.
Rebels quarterback Archie Manning had to frequently direct the offense 90 or 95 yards downfield against the Golden Eagles. He conceded they had no answer for Ray Guy.
Guy also once had to punt the ball three times prior to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs’ punt return because of repeated penalties.
He punted the ball from the Golden Eagles’ 30-yard line the third time around. It landed out of bounds at the Bulldogs’ one-yard line.
Guy’s 46.2 yards per punt was the best among college punters in 1972. He had an incredible record-breaking 93-yard punt that year.
Guy also earned MVP honors in the Senior Bowl, East/West Shrine Game, All-America Bowl, and College All-Star Game in his senior season at Southern Mississippi.
RAY GUY – Univ. Southern Mississippi pic.twitter.com/2BmNMtQpTB
— jshow (@HtownJW) April 23, 2022
Guy’s 200 punts in the collegiate ranks traveled an average distance of 44.7 yards. Three of those punts went beyond 70 yards. To nobody’s surprise, he became a First-Team All-American in 1972.
Guy also played as the Golden Eagles’ emergency quarterback – a trend that continued when he played for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders. He could throw the football 80 yards downfield effortlessly, per Cleveland.
Ray Guy was no slouch on the defensive side of the ball. He was a ball-hawking safety who had 18 interceptions in three seasons, per ProFootballHOF.com.
Not only that, but Guy could also tackle and layout offensive players who stood in his way.
Guy once hit a Memphis Tigers wide receiver so hard that as soon as the latter caught the football, he lay on the gridiron unconscious for several seconds. Players and officials alike scoured the field for his missing teeth as physicians tried to revive him.
Guy also made a then-record 61-yard field goal against the Utah State Aggies during his college football career for good measure. It wasn’t just an ordinary field goal – Guy kicked the ball between the uprights during a raging snowstorm.
Guy nailed 25 field goals as the Golden Eagles’ kicker from 1969 to 1972.
Guy didn’t just excel on the college gridiron. He was also an excellent ping-pong player and the only one who could defeat the Chinese exchange students, per Cleveland.
Ray Guy also continued excelling as a baseball pitcher during his days at Southern Mississippi. He had 266 strikeouts in 200 innings during his college baseball career.
Guy also had a no-hitter against William Carey University during his senior season in 1972.
Renowned college baseball coach and current Mississippi State athletic director Ron Polk once told Cleveland that Guy’s slider was second to none in the NCAA ranks.
Not only that, but Guy’s fastball velocity also barely reached the three-digit mark.
Guy was not your ordinary college baseball pitcher. He could also hit for power.
Cleveland claimed he saw Guy hit a 500-foot home run using a wooden baseball bat during his college days.
Several Major League Baseball clubs expressed their interest in Guy’s services from 1969 to 1973. The Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, and Atlanta Braves drafted him four times during that four-year time frame.
Although the lure of playing MLB baseball was appealing, Ray Guy decided to commit to football and declare for the 1973 NFL Draft.
That decision eventually paved the way for one of the most iconic punting careers in National Football League history.
Pro Football Career
Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders made Ray Guy the 23rd overall selection of the 1973 NFL Draft. Guy was the first punter taken off the draft board that year.
Legendary Raiders head coach John Madden once wrote that Guy was the easiest draft choice the team made during his ten-year tenure from 1969 to 1978. It was one of the rare times Oakland’s coaches and scouts were on the same page in terms of their first-round selection.
Guy earned Madden’s ire in the former’s first training camp in the summer of 1973.
Guy, who played safety in college, was accustomed to storming the field with the defensive players. He continued the trend and ran directly toward Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff.
Madden flew into a rage when he saw Guy. The Oakland head coach wanted Guy to play punter for him exclusively – he felt he was too valuable at that position.
It did not take long for Ray Guy to make an impact on the NFL gridiron.
Guy’s punts traveled an average distance of 45.3 yards in his rookie season in 1973. It was the best punting average of his fourteen-year pro football career.
On January 30, 1973
The #Raiders selected University of Southern Mississippi punter Ray Guy in the first round of the 1973 draft. (#23 overall)
A significant contributor to the Raiders success, 3x Super Bowl champion.
Professional Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014 pic.twitter.com/PIFjcKvZTt
— AFL Godfather 🏴☠️👓🏈 (@NFLMAVERICK) January 30, 2021
Guy was the league’s punting leader in 1974, 1975, and 1977. He averaged a gaudy 43.1 yards per punt during those three years. Guy even booted an incredible 74-yard punt against the Denver Broncos in 1977.
Guy served notice that he was one of the best in the business. Pro Football Weekly handed him its Golden Toe Award as the NFL’s best punter in 1975.
With Guy at the top of his game, he earned six consecutive Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections from 1973 to 1978.
On one of Guy’s trips to the Pro Bowl, he told Rick Cleveland’s brother Bobby that he was going to punt the ball so high, it was going to hit the massive jumbotron above the Louisiana Superdome field.
True to his word, Ray Guy punted and hit the jumbotron just as he called it.
Coincidentally, John Madden’s Oakland Raiders were a juggernaut in the mid-to-late 1970s. Oakland averaged eleven wins per year from 1973 to 1978.
The Raiders won four division titles and made five postseason appearances during that six-season stretch.
By the time the 1977 NFL campaign kicked off, legendary Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll considered Ray Guy the best punter in the National Football League.
“Ray is unquestionably the best in the league,” Noll declared that year. “I don’t know of anybody that is a close second.”
While Ray Guy earned the respect of many fans and famous football pundits, he also had his share of detractors.
The same year Chuck Noll sang Guy’s praises, Houston Oilers head coach Bum Phillips could not fathom why his punts hung in the air so long. Phillips even thought Guy punted footballs with helium.
Phillips’ popular return specialist, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, also once said he had never seen special teamers who could hang punts like Guy did, per ProFootballHOF.com.
The Silver and Black reached the pinnacle of the National Football League when they won their first Super Bowl title at the end of the 1976 NFL season.
Behind left tackle Art Shell’s perfect game and defensive back Willie Brown’s game-clinching pick-six off Fran Tarkenton, the Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, 32-14.
Ray Guy earned the first of his three career Super Bowl rings in his fifth pro football season.
Guy earned his seventh and last Pro Bowl berth following the 1980 NFL season.
Guy also earned Second-Team All-Pro honors in 1979 and 1980. Age did not slow down the 31-year-old punter in the 1980 NFL season. He had a booming 71-yard punt against the San Diego Chargers in the 1980 AFC Championship Game.
The Raiders won their second Super Bowl title and the first of the Tom Flores Era in 1980. Oakland beat Dick Vermeil’s Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV, 27-10.
Fast forward three years later, the Silver and Black won their third Super Bowl title and their first as the Los Angeles Raiders. They annihilated Joe Theismann’s Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, 38-9.
Whenever Ray Guy punted for the Silver and Black, the opposition found it hard to gain good field position.
Guy averaged an impressive 42.4 yards per punt during his fourteen-year pro football career. He averaged at least 40 yards per punt in thirteen of his fourteen NFL seasons.
Guy did not eclipse the 40-yard average during the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season. He averaged 39.1 yards per punt for the Raiders that year.
Ray Guy also came through in the clutch for the Raiders. He averaged 42.4 yards per punt in 111 career postseason games.
Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach Frank Gansz marveled at Guy’s superior punting abilities. He told Football Digest (via ProFootballHOF.com) in 1987 that Guy’s ability to pin opponents inside the 20-yard line helped the Raiders’ defense on a regular basis.
Denver Broncos punter Bucky Dilts once said Guy’s punts were so good, he often demoralized offenses when they took the field.
Guy did not just make it hard for opponents to gain good field position. He also made it nearly impossible for them to block his punts.
According to ProFootballHOF.com, opponents blocked Guy’s 1,049 punts just three times from 1973 to 1986.
No opponent blocked Guy’s 619 punts in the final eight seasons of his legendary gridiron career. At the time Guy hung up his cleats following the 1986 NFL campaign, that streak was the second-best in league history.
The secret to Ray Guy’s punting success lay in his ability to block everything out and focus on the task at hand.
“It’s like mind over matter,” Guy once quipped. “Once you start thinking about eleven guys coming at you or 80,000 people booing you, you’re not concentrating – not doing your job. So I just blot everything out.”
It wasn’t just Ray Guy’s punting abilities that made him a special player. In Hall of Fame coach John Madden’s opinion, Guy’s versatility set him apart from other gridiron warriors of his era.
“We had him run many plays in practice at wide receiver,” Madden said (via the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s official website). “We’d had him play (defensive back) and we’ve even had him play QB at times. He can do all those things. He’s a football player that kicks, not a kicker who plays football. There’s a helluva difference.”
Madden also thought Guy threw more forcefully than Raiders quarterback Ken “Snake” Stabler. He was that good.
Ray Guy retired following the 1986 NFL season. He had 44,493 punting yards on 1,049 attempts in his fourteen-year pro football career.
Guy was also a durable ironman who played in 207 consecutive games for the Raiders from 1973 to 1986. He never missed a single game when he donned the Silver and Black.
Post-Football Life and Death
Guy co-founded the Ray Guy Kicking Academy – a youth football academy for kickers, punters, and long snappers – with American Football Specialists director Rick Sang.
Guy and Sang eventually co-authored a book entitled Football Kicking and Punting in 2009.
The Augusta Sports Council has been giving the Ray Guy Award to the best college punter since 2000.
Ray Guy filed for bankruptcy in the summer of 2011. Consequently, a judge ordered him to sell his three Super Bowl rings.
An anonymous buyer eventually purchased them for $96,216.
Prior to Guy’s bankruptcy filing, he had been the University of Southern Mississippi’s M-Club and community relations director since 2007.
Guy worked in the school’s alumni association department in later years.
Guy entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He became the first Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles player and All-American punter to earn that honor.
Ray Guy became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the summer of 2014. He’s the first full-time punter enshrined in Canton, OH.
John Madden, Guy’s head coach with the Oakland Raiders from 1973 to 1978, was his presenter.
Prior to Guy’s induction, he had been a seven-time finalist since 1992. He told The Associated Press in 2014 that the indifference of naysayers who downplayed his induction irritated him.
Part of his enshrinement speech reads:
“I was a good athlete and could have been a Major League pitcher or an NBA basketball player, but I knew God had something special for me…Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny, and I never looked back or questioned my decision.”
Guy is also a member of the National High School Sports Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Renowned Mississippi sports journalist Rick Cleveland played golf with Ray Guy during the latter’s retirement years. To Cleveland’s astonishment, Guy could swing a mean golf club even without warming up.
Sadly, Ray Guy passed away on November 3, 2022. He was 72 years old.
According to his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi (via The Associated Press and ESPN), he succumbed to an undisclosed and lengthy illness.
Guy left behind his wife Beverly, daughter Amber, and son Ryan.