Commentary

Just the Guy for the job: Raiders legend producing pros

As a Raiders punter, Ray Guy helped redefine the position. More than 20 years after his NFL career ended, his teaching skills have helped produce many current pro stars.

Originally Published: November 15, 2007
By William Bendetson | ESPN.com

Former Oakland Raiders kicker Ray Guy, in his Georgia drawl, prefers to talk about dogs, horses or his yard work. His career as maybe the greatest punter in NFL history might be the fourth topic of any conversation.

Ask whether he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Guy will allow his credentials to speak for themselves:

• A 2007 HOF finalist, he sported a 42.4-yard career average spanning 14 seasons (1973-86).

• Guy played in seven Pro Bowls, six consecutively, and led the league in punting three times.

• When he retired he owned the NFL's postseason records for career punts (111) and highest average in a playoff game (56.0).

The first pure punter drafted in the first round (23rd overall), the former Southern Miss star justified the Raiders' faith in him by making punts a weapon, not a concession.

"One punt can determine who wins a game. I can remember times when I pinned an opponent deep in their own territory and we won because of it. Field position is important both for an offense and defense," said Guy, who also handled kickoffs for the Raiders. "It's also important that a punter knows how to kick out of bounds so he does not allow a big return."

[+] EnlargeRay Guy
Rick SangRay Guy's punts traveled so high that he once was accused of using balls filled with helium. But he has plenty of proof about the authenticity of his skills, including several graduates of his camps playing in the NFL today.

The man whose legendary high kicks made the term "hang time" part of the football lexicon knows he will get his due in Canton.

" I am confident that it [Hall of Fame induction] will eventually happen," said Guy, who turns 58 in December. "It kind of bothers me a little bit. I am just looking for recognition, but I think my fans get more upset than I do."

In the meantime, Guy keeps himself busy by coaching at ProKicker.com's instructional camps and working for his alma mater. He recently accepted a position at Southern Mississippi to help with its 2010 centennial celebration. As a school ambassador, Guy will spend time searching through archives to find accomplished alumni whom the school might have forgotten. He jokes that he will be doing what he does best -- meeting and greeting.

Beginning this month he'll be commuting between Hattiesburg, Miss., and his home in Thomson, Ga., but for Guy working for his school is a labor of love.

Guy's new position still will allow him to run his two-day punting camps. The camps are now in their 13th year and usually are conducted during the summer.

Guy is so busy that recently he had to drive his truck from Memphis to Dallas to Oklahoma City in a week's time to conduct some of his 30 camps. Still, to many in this generation of campers, Guy is a mere teacher at first.

"A lot of kids at the camps might not have heard of Ray Guy," said Rick Sang, the camp director for ProKicker.com. " Sometimes the parents are more intrigued than the kids. Ray has needed to reinvent himself for today's culture."

'Thanks, Teach'
Check out the top of the NFL's punting rankings this week and whose names do you see? The top three positions are owned by graduates of Ray Guy's kicking camps. The Rams' Donnie Jones and the 49ers' Andy Lee are tied for the overall lead, each averaging 50.0 yards per punt. A fraction behind is Shane Lechler (49.9), who has Guy's old job as the Raiders' punter.
-- William Bendetson


His hard work, however, has paid dividends. In 2006, about 140 participants at Guy's camps were starting kickers at the collegiate level.

Recent Guy students include three current NFL specialists: Raiders punter Shane Lechler, San Francisco 49ers punter Andy Lee and St. Louis Rams punter Donnie Jones.

Detroit Lions punter Nick Harris also trained with Guy and has served as a camp instructor. Harris still offers to work at Guy's camp for no compensation. Guy calls Harris the modern-day version of himself, as Harris, like Guy, is known for his hang time.

Harris first heard about Guy's program when he was a freshman at the University of California. Guy's overall message resonated with Harris: Good punting is not about having the most power, but rather about adapting your punts to a particular game situation. Hang time and location are just as important as distance.

Guy teaches his students how to "pooch punt" and how to punt out of their own end zone when they have only 10 yards instead of 15 between themselves and the line of scrimmage. Guy also uses video to show students how they can improve.

"He doesn't believe in a cookie-cutter model. He tries to understand what each person can do and then makes adjustments to their technique, " Harris said.

"Punting is the same as hitting in that film study is so important. It is one thing to tell someone something, but it is another thing to show them on film what they can do better. When I grew up everyone would say 'Ray Guy this' or 'Ray Guy that.' He was one of the guys you kind look up to when you are in the punting community."

William Bendetson covers pro football for ESPN.com.