Ray Guy was asleep when the Raiders took him No. 23 overall in the 1973 NFL draft. The All-American should’ve been awake for an 8 a.m. class, but he ignored the alarm and snoozed until hearing a persistent knock at the door.
An assistant ushered Guy to the Southern Mississippi athletics office, where he was informed of something he couldn’t believe. He was already off the draft board. No punter had ever been selected higher.
“I had no idea I was going in the first round,” Guy said by phone earlier this week. “I figured that, as a punter, I was going until the fifth round or so. I was shocked, truly blown away when the Raiders took me at that spot.”
Many are shocked a man considered the greatest punter ever isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Guy was ignored seven times as a modern-era finalist, but hopes to become the first punter inducted as a senior selection committee nomination when the 2014 class is announced on Saturday.
“The days have really slowed down over the past week,” Guy said. “It’s hard to really concentrate.”
Guy had similar troubles before training camp in ’73. Guy countered anxiety with confidence in his ability and that Raiders owner Al Davis believed in him.
“People thought Al was crazy anyway, but they really thought he was off his rocker when he did that,” Guy said. “But Al apparently knew what he was doing. He knew what he needed, and obviously it worked out. Those Raiders teams wouldn’t have been quite as good without quality special teams. He found a fit with his organization, and I worked very hard to prove him right.”
Guy certainly did. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, a eight-time All-Pro, a three-time Super Bowl champion and a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Hang time became a stat because of his accurate, arching, nearly-impossible-to-return punts.
Those are Hall of Fame credentials to be sure. Logic suggests that Guy could sleep through the selection process as he did 40 years ago and wake up to some good news.
That hasn’t happened. Guy has waited by the phone seven times now, only to end the day disappointed. His exclusion defies logic, yet remains because some are prejudiced against his position. A stubborn faction refused to vote for Guy or any other punter and has kept him out thus far.
“I don’t understand why no punters are in the Hall,” Guy said. “It doesn’t have to be me, but it should be somebody. Apparently they haven’t thought that was the right thing to do. Apparently they don’t think it’s important, despite the fact that special teams make an impact on every game. I hope to take whatever happens in stride, but it’s going to be tough this week.”
His odds will increase significantly this season as a senior-selection committee candidate, nominations that are most always confirmed.
“From what I’ve gathered and what I’ve heard, it’s a bit more relaxed for me this time,” Guy said. “But you still have a chance of not getting in. It may be easier, but this never gets easy to go through.”
Being inducted should because for celebration, but Guy also will find relief in ending the politics surrounding his candidacy. He’s tired of campaigning, or having others do so for him. He’s tired of the rejection and the marginalization of a great career.
“I really want to put it to rest,” Guy said. “I want it for my family, but also for the fans I meet across the country who have always assumed I was already in the Hall of Fame. It’s no fun to explain the process of this whole thing over and over again. If I get in, it’s for them. It’s for the Raiders and my school. It’s for those who have always stood behind me..”