Our countdown of the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger continues with punter Ray Guy checking in at No. 4 ...
Ray Guy (Southern Mississippi, first round, No. 23 overall, 1973)
Too high for a punter, even if he is headed for enshrinement this summer in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? No. Not at all. In fact, I toyed with the idea of making Guy the Raiders' best draft pick overall since the merger.
Guy was certainly the most unconventional, what with his draft slot as the first pure punter to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft. But he also may have been the most dependable.
“He was so good and had such an immediate impact on our team from Day 1,” said former Raiders coach Tom Flores. “He was part of our game approach. We always knew, with his help, we would win field position.
“He changed the game.”
Guy was named to seven Pro Bowls and six times was all-Pro. Just three of his 1,049 career punts were blocked and he never had one returned for a touchdown. And he was one of just six players to have been on all three Raiders Super Bowl title teams, along with Cliff Branch, Ted Hendricks, Henry Lawrence, Dave Dalby and Steve Sylvester.
Guy's career average of 42.4 yards per punt over his 14-year career may seem humdrum by today's booming numbers, but it was his accuracy, his ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory and his athleticism that separated Guy. And it was all on display on a single punt early in Super Bowl XVIII, when he leaped high to snag Todd Christensen's errant snap to avert a disastrous situation against Washington.
So when Guy, a seniors committee candidate for Canton, was voted in this past winter, it seemed to validate his place in history, even if the Raiders were already certain of his legacy.
“I didn't try to put myself up on a pedestal just because I did something very well,” Guy said. “I did it because of the team. It's like my dad always said to me and my two brothers, the three of us, he said, ‘Whatever you do, give it your best shot.' That's what I did.”
No. 5: WR Cliff Branch
No. 4: P Ray Guy
No. 3: ?
No. 2: ?
No. 1: ?