Please note that this post contains affiliate links and any sales made through such links will reward MageeNews.com a small commission – at no extra cost to you.
By Andy Baeuerle
Special thanks to the USM Special Collections and Archives for providing the images in this article.
Usually, in college football and the NFL, we like to pay more attention to quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. These three groups always tend to be the biggest in the news, and the ones everyone focuses on more. But in 1971, this close-mindedness was met with some fierce competition when Ray Guy stepped onto the Southern Miss campus.
Born in Swainsboro, Georgia, on December 22, 1949, Ray Guy, aside from kicking and punting, also played quarterback, safety, linebacker, and tailback in high school. In 1967 and 1968, he led his Thomson High School team to the Georgia Class A High School Football Championship. Guy also excelled in basketball and baseball in high school.
Accepting an offer from Southern Miss, Ray Guy’s first game was against Louisiana-Lafayette in the 1970 season. Ray Guy scored the only points of either team in the first half and the Eagles led the game 3-0 at halftime. On a 4th down in the third quarter, Guy punted the ball for 77 yards, at the time, one of the longest punts in college football. Guy also set other records at Southern Miss, including a 61-yard field goal versus Utah State, and a 93-yard punt against Ole Miss.
In 1973, Guy was eligible for the NFL Draft. In an interview with the Pro Football Hall of Fame, this is how Ray Guy explains his experience on the day of the draft: “I was told to the athletic director’s office. So I was in there with Coach Reed Green and my coach from college P.W. Underwood. Coach Green told me that I would need to be around the phone that day because if I was drafted, I would get a phone call. I wasn’t thinking about the draft. I had a class that morning. I had to go to class. I didn’t make it to the class which now doesn’t bother me…..But then the call came. It was from John [Madden] and we had a great conversation for an hour and John told me ‘Welcome to the Raiders.’ Ace Cleveland was sitting beside me at the time. Ace was the SID* at Southern and I said ‘Ace, who the heck are the Raiders?’ I had never heard of them.”
An interesting story about Guy being drafted was the timing of his being picked. Usually, NFL teams wait until the later rounds of the draft to pick punters. But according to John Madden, “We all knew he was the best punter in the draft and college football.” Ray Guy became the first punter to ever be drafted in the 1st Round of the NFL Draft. The only other time this has occurred as of the 2022 Draft, is 1979 when the New Orleans Saints chose Russell Erxleben as their punter.
Ray Guy had a successful 14-year career in the NFL, playing all 14 years for the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. Retiring in 1986, Guy had some impressive stats for a punter, as listed:
- Games Played: 207
- Total Punts: 1,049
- Yards Punted: 44,493 yards
- Average Yards Punted: 42.4 yards
- Longest Punt: 74 yards
- Longest Punt in College: 93 yards
Following his retirement, Ray Guy founded a number of punting and kicking camps across the south. The purpose of these camps is to help upcoming kickers and punters improve themselves, and develop their own specific forms of punting or kicking.
Ray Guy became known as one of the top football players to ever come out of Southern Miss, often appearing at football games and other events at the college. Ray Guy was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
After announcing he would miss Southern Miss’ 2022 football matchup against Louisiana due to an illness, Ray Guy passed away in Hattiesburg at the age of 72. In a statement from his son Ryan, Ray Guy passed away of “advanced-stage COPD.”
Ray Guy’s impact on football will never be forgotten. Following his Hall of Fame inductions, the University of Southern Miss renamed one of the streets on campus to “Ray Guy Way.” This street, rightly fitting Guy, is behind the Jim & Thomas Duff Athletic Center, M.M. Roberts Stadium, and the Thad Cochran Center.
Every year, since 2000, college football punters are scouted and watched closely, all vying for the Ray Guy Award. Punters and kickers from around the nation are selected as candidates and they are all on watchlists that follow their games. In the last 2022 years, it has occurred twice a player won that award 2 years in a row, those being Ray Allen from Louisiana Tech (2011 & 2012) and Tom Hackett from Utah (2014 & 2015.)
*SIDs are Sports Information Directors.
If you want to know more about Ray Guy or his kicking camps, here are a few links to find more information:
Southern Miss Blast from the Past: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zu2GHMthGuk
Ray Guy Draft Day Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtL9Z-qB3Dk&t=123s
Ray Guy, Pro Football Hall of Fame: https://www.profootballhof.com/players/ray-guy/
Ray Guy, College Football Hall of Fame:
MageeNews.com is an online news source covering Simpson and surrounding counties as well as the State of Mississippi.