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Saturday, February 1, 2014
Ray Guy in Hall, Tim Brown has to wait

By Paul Gutierrez

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While one former Oakland Raiders player made history Saturday, another will have to wait at least another year for his place in football immortality.

Ray Guy became the first punter to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, making the cut in his first year as a senior candidate while Tim Brown, who retired with the second-most receiving yards in NFL history, was eliminated in the first vote, from 15 candidates to 10, in his fifth year as a finalist.

Guy joins Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, Aeneas Williams and fellow senior candidate Claude Humphrey as the Hall’s Class of 2014.

“When you’re building a team, there are a certain number of positions," Guy told ESPN.com in a recent phone interview, “and every position on a Hall of Fame team is full except for one, and that’s the punter. But that is a position, I don’t care how important you think it is or isn’t, but it is a position and it needs to be filled.

“Whether it’s by me, or somebody else. Now, I would love to be the first one. But if not, let’s finally go ahead and complete the team so we can go out and play.”

Guy, widely seen as the best punter in the game’s history, was initially a finalist in 1992 and fought a bias against specialists in the selection room. But as a senior nominee -- 15 of the previous 18 candidates had won induction -- Guy’s chances seemed to increase.

Along with former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Humphrey, the cases of the two senior candidates were heard and voted upon by the 46 selectors before the other 15 modern-era finalists were debated.

There have been 51 different senior candidates since the category was established in 1972, and 40 have been elected, with 17 of the past 20 gaining election since 2005, including Guy and Humphrey.

“Long overdue,” former Raiders coach Tom Flores, who was Guy’s head coach from 1979 through 1986, said Saturday. “It’s not easy to be voted into the Hall of Fame, especially with the pulse of today’s voters, who seem to want to just vote in guys who retired five years ago, rather than taking the time to see the history of the game.

“But Ray, he was so good and had such an immediate impact on our team from Day 1. He was part of our game approach. We always knew with his help we would win field position. He was not just a punter, but a great athlete. He changed the game.”

The Raiders shocked the NFL when they used a first-round draft pick, No. 23 overall, on Guy in 1973, after he suffered a broken left ankle in his final college game at Southern Mississippi. He responded with six All-Pro selections, and his booming punts fostered the creation of the “hang time” stat.

Guy, now 64, never had a punt returned for a touchdown, nor did he miss a game in his 14-year career, and only three of his 1,049 punts were blocked. His punting average of 42.4 yards might not pop off the stat sheet, but it was his combination of hang time and directional punting that separated him.

Plus, he is one of just six to have played on all three Raiders Super Bowl title teams, along with linebacker Ted Hendricks, receiver Cliff Branch, center Dave Dalby, and offensive linemen Henry Lawrence and Steve Sylvester.

But Guy, who runs punting camps as well as serving as director of the Southern Miss m-club alumni association for men and women athletes, ran into financial straits in recent years and auctioned off his three rings for a reported total of $96,216.

“I took care of what I had to take care of, and I took care of my family,” he said.

Now, he’ll have a gold jacket.

Alas, Brown’s day will have to wait. Among the three finalists who were receivers, Andre Reed gained inclusion and Marvin Harrison, a first-year candidate, made the cut from 15 to 10, but was eliminated in the cut from 10 to five, meaning Brown is now behind Harrison in the packing order in selectors’ minds.

Brown, who played for the Raiders from 1988 through 2003 and then finished up with a season in Tampa Bay, was also second in NFL history in receiving yards (14,934), third in receptions (1,094), and tied for third in receiving touchdowns (100) when he retired.

He was a nine-time Pro Bowler who twice was selected as a kick returner, and ranked fifth in league history with 19,682 combined net yards.

Reed played in four Super Bowls, Harrison won with the Indianapolis Colts, and Brown caught just one pass for nine yards in the Raiders’ 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Still, including Reed, there will be 23 receivers enshrined in Canton, and Brown’s career intersected or missed by two years with nine of them -- Reed, Cris Carter, Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner, Steve Largent, James Lofton, Art Monk, Jerry Rice and John Stallworth. Brown’s career receiving yardage is higher than all but Rice. Plus, only Rice and Carter had more touchdown catches than Brown, whose 100 equaled that of Largent in that era.

With Guy going to Canton, the Raiders now claim 22 Hall of Famers: Guy, Marcus Allen, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Bob Brown, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Al Davis, Eric Dickerson, Mike Haynes, Hendricks, James Lofton, Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, John Madden, Ron Mix, Jim Otto, Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw and Rod Woodson.