It’s a shame Al Davis didn’t live to see Ray Guy’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday in Canton, Ohio.
It would have been fun to see the old man, wearing his black suit with silver pinstripes, point his crooked, bony finger at the crowd – but actually directed toward his longtime critics – and say in his Brooklyn accent, “I told you so.”
Because he did. He told the football world that Ray Guy was going to be special, that he was more than a punter coming to Oakland out of Southern Mississippi, he was a weapon the Raiders would use to push offenses deep into their own territory.
But critics around the NFL – and some in his own locker room – questioned Davis for using a first-round pick to draft Guy in 1973. Most teams wouldn’t draft a punter if you gave them 17 rounds to pick – and back then, they did have 17 rounds.
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Guy was everything Davis thought he would be and more. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowl selection. The football world never heard of the terms “hangtime” and “coffin corner” before Guy entered the league. When he retired after 13 seasons in 1986, he had redefined the position of punter.
What was it about Davis that made him see special things in special-teams players? Fourteen years after Guy retired, Davis drafted Shane Lechler out of Texas A&M. Lechler played 13 years for the Raiders and now enters his second season in Houston. The seven-time Pro Bowler and NFL’s all-time career leader in punting average will someday enter the Hall of Fame – thanks to Guy, thanks to Davis.
How many NFL team owners could have said they drafted two Hall of Fame punters?
Davis could have told us so.
– Victor Contreras
What do you think of Ray Guy entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
• It’s about time.
• Punters don’t belong.
To vote, go to sacbee.com/sports
What should the Giants do about jersey No. 22?
• Retire it: 59%
• Keep issuing it to non-stars: 15%
• Save it for a potential star: 26%
Total votes: 270