Ray Guy, Considered One of the Best Punters in NFL History, Dead at 72: 'A Legend'

Hall of Fame inductee Ray Guy poses during the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Canton, Ohio. Ray Guy, the first punter to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, following a lengthy illness. He had been receiving care in a Hattiesburg, Miss. area hospice. He was 72.
Hall of Fame inductee Ray Guy poses during the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Canton, Ohio. Ray Guy, the first punter to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, following a lengthy illness. He had been receiving care in a Hattiesburg, Miss. area hospice. He was 72.

Tony Dejak/AP Photo

Ray Guy, considered one of the best punters to ever grace a football field, died Thursday at 72.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced the Hall of Famer's death in a message to social media on Thursday calling him "the best of the best." The team did not announce a cause of death.

According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Guy became the first punter to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, which he was selected by the then Oakland Raiders with the 23rd pick in 1973.

Over his 14-season career, he punted 1,049 times, with only three of those attempts being blocked by an opposing player, per the Hall of Fame.

"Ray Guy is a legend in every sense of the word," a tweet from his alma mater, Southern Miss, said on Thursday. "One of the most amazing athletes to ever play at Southern Miss, yet one of the most down-to-earth, humble people you will ever meet."

"He loved this university and this university loved him," the school added. "He will be greatly missed by the Golden Eagle family."

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The Georgia native was also a talented baseball pitcher and was drafted by MLB teams four different times, according to Football Reference. He was first selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 14th round of the 1969 amateur draft but opted to go to college instead.

Two years later, Guy was picked during the second phase of the June 1971 amateur draft by the Houston Astros, then by Atlanta Braves in the 17th round of the 1972 amateur draft. The Reds picked him again in the 1973 amateur draft.

Guy was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

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"I never really had a teacher, a coach or a special camp to attend to learn the art of punting," Guy said during his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech. "My high school coach, Paul Leroy, showed me two things about foot alignment and ball placement. That was pretty much it. All through high school and college I played other positions as well. I was a good athlete and could have been a Major League pitcher or an NBA basketball player, but I knew God had something special for me."

"And eventually one sport would stand out beyond the rest, and it did," he added. "Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny, and I never looked back or questioned my decision."

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During his speech, Guy said he hoped he could pave the wave for more punters to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame.

"I hope I inspire young punters to achieve their dreams to one day play in the NFL and maybe even be elected into the Hall of Fame," he said. "It's been a long, long overdue, but now the Hall of Fame has a complete team. Punters are a very important part of the team, regardless how many times they step on to the field. It only takes one play to change the outcome of a game. So punters, keep the faith. You are an important part of every game."