Ray Guy, widely regarded as the greatest punter in NFL history, passed away Thursday morning following a lengthy illness, his alma mater, Southern Miss, announced. He was 72 years old.
A member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame, Guy became the first punter inducted into Canton, Ohio, when he was enshrined in 2014.
“Fittingly, much was written when Ray Guy was enshrined in Canton about how his election as the first true punter created a “full roster” of players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Too often overlooked, however, was the man behind his powerful right leg,” Hall of Fame president Jim Porter said in a statement. “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.
“A truly gifted athlete, he could have been a star in Major League Baseball or pro basketball. Fans of the NFL thank Ray for choosing to focus on football.”
Guy was the 23rd overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft. An immediate star, Guy was named to his first of six consecutive Pro Bowls during his rookie season. He was an All-Pro each season from 1976-78 before earning his seventh Pro Bowl nod in 1980.
An integral part of three Super Bowl championship teams, Guy had 111 punts in the postseason that included a 71-yard boot during the 1980 postseason. Guy’s greatest play in the NFL may have come in Super Bowl XVIII, when he managed to pull down a high snap with one hand before making a 40-plus-yard punt and saving a potential Washington touchdown. The Raiders ended up winning the game, 38-9, while pulling off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history.
Guy spent his entire 14-year career with the Raiders, retiring after the 1986 season. After a 22-year-wait, he joined many of his former teammates in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Prior to joining the Raiders, Guy enjoyed a standout career at Southern Mississippi, where he was the punter, place-kicker and safety for the Golden Eagles from 1970-72. His accolades include a 93-yard punt against Ole Miss and a 61-yard field goal in a snowstorm against Utah — which was an NCAA record at the time. He finished his college career with the school record in career punting average with 44.7 yards per punt.
In addition to his success as a kicker, Guy was a starting safety for the Golden Eagles. He intercepted eight passes in 1972, which is still tied for the single-season school record. He was named a unanimous All-American following his senior season.
The Ray Guy Award was created in 2000 to honor college football’s most outstanding punter.