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Chris Kluwe met Ray Guy once, just before the presentation of the Ray Guy award. The honor goes to the season’s best college punter, and the UCLA alum got a handshake, a smile and a few kind words just before the ceremony.
Even a moment spent with an icon was cherished. Kluwe has always admired the Raiders legend, who revolutionized his position during 14 seasons in silver and black. The outspoken punter, who spent eight seasons with Minnesota and the 2013 training camp with the Raiders, considers it a travesty that Guy, or any other punter for that matter, is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
[RELATED: Guy on verge of Hall of Fame induction]
Kluwe made his feelings known. He wrote articles to champion Guy’s cause. He fashioned a "Vote Ray Guy" sticker over a Pro Football Hall of Fame patch that got him fined. He spoke to anyone who would listen about the merits of a punter who invented hang time and changed how the position is played.
He referenced a resume that includes seven Pro Bowls, six first-team All-Pro selections and three Super Bowl rings. Guy’s career punt average isn’t stellar, but he never had a punt returned and most always won the battle for field position.
Too often Kluwe’s logic has fallen on deaf ears. A stubborn faction of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee refuses to vote for punters based on position alone.
“That concept is absurd,” Kluwe said by telephone this week. “Ray revolutionized the punting position. Before Ray Guy, no one was keeping track of hang time as a stat. Before Ray, it was all about how far you can kick it. After he starting punting, coaches realized the value of his style. It changed the way everyone punted. No matter what position you’re playing, if you improve it, by definition, you belong in the Hall of Fame.”
Guy’s best and possibly last chance to get there comes Saturday. Guy was nominated by the senior selection committee, which gives him a much clearer path to induction. He still needs 80-percent approval, but the voters simply give a yes or no vote. The modern-era finalists advance through rounds of discussion before a maximum of five are approved. If Guy isn’t confirmed, it’s highly unlikely the senior selection committee will make him one of just two nominees in the near future.
While Kluwe and others have championed Guy’s cause from the outside, there are several proponents inside the selection committee trying to sway hard-liners.
CSN Bay Area managing editor Nancy Gay ranks loud among them. As one of two Bay Area team representatives on the 46-person committee, Gay believes Guy is more than deserving of a yellow jacket and a bust honoring the greatest to ever play.
“We cannot ignore a key component of the game of football by continuing to exclude a punter from Canton — especially a game-changing player such as Guy who is revered by Hall of Fame defenders such as Willie Brown,” Gay said. “Ray Guy won games for the Oakland Raiders. Period."
Gay will fight for Guy during Saturday’s crucial selection meeting. She’ll use statistics and the opinions of his contemporaries to support her case. She’ll reference anecdotes of legend, possibly one from the Raiders Super Bowl XVIII victory over Washington, when Guy caught an errant snap with one hand (saving a touchdown, mind you) and still managed to send off a perfect 42-yard punt.
It’s probable yet still uncertain that like arguments within the selection meeting room will sway 80 percent. Guy will be in New York during the final vote, which those who campaign for him hope will fare better than failed attempts of the past.
"I've always admired Ray Guy for his class and dignity over the years, getting so close to Hall of Fame glory yet coming away disappointed,” Gay said. “He's an incredible class act, a teacher of the game and a man who loves football. I think he'll probably bring half of his home state of Mississippi and every Raiders fans as he can with him to Canton."