NEW YORK -- After years and years of way too much hang time, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's invitation to Ray Guy finally landed Saturday

And when it happened, the punter did not punt when asked for a reaction to the news. He was emotional.

"You just don't know what the feeling means, after so many years," Guy said here, admitting there was "frustration" if not anxiety as he was passed over seven times as a Canton finalist.

Because now, he could come clean. Guy truly was mystified about why he was being kept out of a place where he believed that he belonged.

And rightly so. Guy retired in 1986. But he was named the punter for the NFL's 75th anniversary team a few years ago. It seemed strange that the man acknowledged as the best punter of the league's first 75 years had not been recognized as a Hall of Famer.

** FILE ** Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy is shown in this this Jan. 25, 1981 file photo, kicking during the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Guy is among 17
** FILE ** Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy is shown in this this Jan. 25, 1981 file photo, kicking during the Super Bowl in New Orleans. Guy is among 17 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2007. (AP Photo)

Oh, Guy had been a good sport about it. He kept telling reporters that it would be OK if he never made it to Canton. This was a lie. He wanted to be there so badly. Guy also said that the real issue to him was seeing any punter, him or otherwise, be elected to the Hall. Why? Because no pure punter ever had been inducted. And Guy believes it was an important football position.

"You knew it would happen, sooner or later," Guy said. "It's a football position. It needed to be represented."

That part was not a lie. Guy is an evangelist for all punters. But underneath, he knew that the man who deserved to be inducted sooner or later was him.


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He did receive a clue last Monday that this might be his time. Guy's original plan was to spend Saturday at his home in Mississippi with friends and some good meat on his outdoor cooker, hoping for good news. But the Hall of Fame folks gave him a call and invited him to New York, telling him his election looked good.

He still wasn't counting on it. Guy knew the problem: Some electors simply believed that a punter did not belong in the Hall. But fortunately, that changed Saturday when the 46 voters met in a hotel conference room to choose the 2014 Hall of Fame class.

In the course of a nine-hour meeting, Guy's candidacy was discussed along with the credentials of 16 other finalists. But because Guy fell into the category of a "senior" candidate, he needed 80 percent support of those voters to receive induction. And it happened.

As a result, Guy was then introduced along with six other new inductees on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, where the NFL was staging its annual television show to honor award winners. Standing there at age 64, with his gray goatee, there was no happier man.

"The deal is, I'm going into the Hall of Fame and I know it's for me," he said. "But I'm happy really for my family and friends, the people who were with me and supported me all these years."

Ray Guy for Raiders promo
Ray Guy for Raiders promo

Guy, who conducts punting clinics and camps, also believes his election will mean something to those kids he is tutoring.

"It's going to give the younger generation hope that there is a place for us," Guy said. "If that's your dream, go for it."

Seeing him on the stage with the other six Hall of Fame inductees, he hardly looked as if he didn't fit. At 6-foot-3 inches tall and still thin, he was clearly as much of an NFL player as any of them. It brought back memories of the great athletic play he made in Super Bowl XVIII against Washington, where he leapt several feet in the air to make a one-handed grab of a high snap and still get away the kick.

Discussions in the Hall of Fame room are secret. But one of the electors said when Guy's name was discussed, the word "pioneer" was frequently used. Al Davis, the Raiders' owner, had made Guy a first-round draft pick in 1973, an unprecedented move for a punter. And the Raiders subsequently used him as a weapon. By legend, former Oakland coach John Madden invented the phrase "hang time" when speaking of those booming punts launched off Guys' foot.

"Pioneer?" asked Guy. "I've never even thought about that part. But if that's what people think is the case, I'm proud of it."

Hall of Fame officials now require the people who present the inductees to use videotaped remarks rather than make them in person — mostly to prevent long-winded speeches — but either way, Guy says he has asked Madden to make those remarks. It will be a glorious trip to Canton for Guy, who very quietly endured a bankruptcy several years ago and was induced to sell his Super Bowl rings.

The other candidates with strong Bay Area connections among the finalists — former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, former 49ers defender Charles Haley and former Raiders receiver Tim Brown — failed to receive enough votes and will have to wait at least another year for election.

But at least one Northern California name will be spending an August weekend in Canton. It couldn't happen to a better foot. Or man.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.

INSIDE

Brooks, Jones selected to Hall
in first year of eligibility PAGE 5

Guy

Former Raiders star will be the first punter enshrined.