Color me happy that Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Famer Ray Guy is once again a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Color me skeptical that he’ll make it. And I hate that.
He needs 80 percent of the vote (of NFL media voters from each NFL city). For whatever reason, there remains a bias against kickers among Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors.
And that’s ridiculous, of course. Shameful is what it really is. The criteria for Hall of Fame induction is supposedly that you are among the elite players at your position in your era. Ray Guy is the elite player at his position in any era. He is the Guy to whom all punters of this and any era are compared. When the NFL selected its Team of the Century, there was no question who would be the punter. Ray Guy.
He was the first punter selected in the first round of the NFL draft. His performance made Al Davis, the Oakland Raiders owner, look like a genius. He helped the Raiders win three Super Bowls. He was one of the keys to those Super Bowl titles. With Guy on your team, fourth down wasn’t such a bad thing. Just snap it to Guy, and you knew the other team was going to have a long, long way to go to light the scoreboard. The game of the game is FOOT-ball. Nobody ever used his foot better than Guy.
I have campaigned for Guy in previous years, just as I have campaigned for Charlie Conerly and Kent Hull — and just as I will campaign for Jimmie Giles. All four of these Mississippians are deserving. All you have to do is talk to the players they played with and against — to know that all belong in Canton, Ohio.
Conerly was one of the elite quarterbacks of his time. Kent Hull was one of the best centers in NFL history, the guy who made Buffalo’s no-huddle go back when every other team was still huddling. Jimmie Giles was a tight end who was the focus of every defense he played against. Stop Giles and you’ve stopped the Bucs was the mantra that Buddy Ryan and other NFL defensive coordinators espoused.
“Jimmie Giles changed the way the NFL looked at tight ends,” said Wayne Fonts, a former NFL Coach of the Year.
“There are seven tight ends in the Hall of Fame,” said Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, who is one of them. “Jimmie deserves to be in there as much of any of us. He was a great, great player.”
For now, Ray Guy is the one among those four who is up for selection. It’s time. It’s time for the best punter in NFL history, a guy who made the Pro Bowl his first six years in the league, to get his due.
I’ve talked to Ray and I know he doesn’t expect to ever make the Hall of Fame. He has gotten his hopes up too many times before and been denied.
But I also know Guy knows he deserves it. He knows he belongs, as should anybody who has paid attention.
Said Jimmie Giles: “Ray Guy is the best there ever was at what he did. I mean, really — what else do you need to say?”
What else, indeed.