Story of the Week
When the Raiders’ Ray Guy dropped back into punt formation, the sky was the limit. No one in NFL history kicked the ball as consistently high and as consistently well as the Raiders’ specialist. Fortunately for Guy, he didn’t spend his career in a domed stadium.
In the warm-up before the 1976 Pro Bowl, staged at the Louisiana Superdome, Guy was bouncing balls off the gondola that housed the television replay screens above the field. With the AFC leading in the third quarter, coach John Madden gave him permission to try for the same gondola with his next kick. The next time the AFC had to punt, Guy boomed the ball up and up and up----and right into the gondola. Madden loved it. The crowd loved it. The officials didn’t; now what do we do?!
It was not the first distinction of Guy’s career. Before he ever put his foot to the ball as a professional, he was a marked man, the first pure punter ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft. The NFL wondered why the Raiders would "waste" a number one draft pick on a punter. But of all the first-round draft choices coach Madden was ever involved in, Ray Guy was the only one that all of the Raiders’ coaches and scouts agreed on in unison.
Madden couldn’t believe the highlight film of Guy punting at Southern Mississippi. One punt from his own end zone carried more than 80 yards in the air, and bounced into the far end zone. Madden and the Raiders’ brass played that film repeatedly before the draft.
Guy averaged 45.3 yards per punt as a rookie, and earned the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl selections. Although he led the NFL three times and had a career average of 42.4, it was the height and hang-time of his punts that raised him above the rest. By Guy’s own admission, he worked more on hang-time than he did distance to avoid the dreaded run-back.
Remarkably, he punted more than 1,000 times in 14 seasons, and had only three punts blocked. This is obviously a tribute to Ray Guy’s exceptional athletic ability. He doubled as a safety in college, and intercepted 18 passes.
At 6-3, with long legs, he was ideally suited for punting. Coach Tom Flores, who succeeded Madden, recalled a telling moment in Super Bowl XVIII. Standing at his 45-yard line, Guy leaped to pull down a very high snap one-handed, and still delivered a much higher 42-yard punt over a strong rush. The Raiders won three Super Bowls during Guy’s career, and he, as was expected, out-punted his NFC counterpart each time.
He was quite a Guy. I don’t believe I wrote that! On second thought……
Last Week’s Trivia
One team in NFL history lost four games in one season in which they had scored 30 or more points in each game, and at one juncture held a double-digit lead. No other team in NFL history had ever suffered three such losses in a single season, let alone four. It was the 2002 Kansas City Chiefs.
Trivia Question of the Week
What is the largest deficit ever overcome by a major league baseball team to stave off elimination in a post-season game? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.