HATTIESBURG-- Sitting in a New York City hotel room last Saturday afternoon, the phone rang and Ray Guy hesitated before answering it.
Oh, he was hoping for a call all right, one from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one that would tell him that his performance in 14 seasons as a punter for the Oakland Raiders had put him into that exclusive club. But he didn't think this call was that call.
"At 5:42 the phone rang," Guy said Friday night before a reception in his honor at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he played college football.
"I looked down at the number on the cell phone and I was expecting Joe (Horrigan) of the Hall of Fame would be calling me and his (area) code was 330. This one was a 714, which is a California number. I almost not answered the phone."
But he did.
"Hello," I said. "The voice on the other end said, 'Is this Ray?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'My name is Dave Baker, the new incoming president for the NFL Hall of Fame. And he says, 'I want to be the first to congratulate you.'"
Guy still wasn't convinced.
"I jumped up and said, 'Are you kidding me?'" Guy said. "He said, 'No, I was the one that wanted to call you. I didn't want anybody else to call you.' I said, 'Come on, Dave, you've got to be kidding me.' He said, 'No, you are a member of the Hall of Fame (class) of 2014.'"
Guy said his legs went numb.
"I fell down," he said. "I think I hit the chair or the floor. Of course the tears come out. It was a moment that you wait all your life to hear that call."
Guy's booming punts landed him on the Pro Bowl Team seven times. He was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team and the NFL All-Century Team.
He averaged 42.4 yards per punt in his NFL career and averaged more than 40 yards per punt in 13 of his 14 seasons in the league.
Guy thinks he was just as valuable because of his hang time and accuracy with his punts.
"Everything is based on a 40-yard dash," he said. "I wanted the ball to be 40 yards, with a 4.5 Guy, whose majestic punts helped coin the phrase "hang time," played for the Raiders from 1973-1986 and was the first punter to ever be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft with the 23rd pick overall.second) hang time in a 10-foot circle, so my team was standing there.
"Starting in '81, I wouldn't even put one in the middle of the field."
Guy had been voted on seven times before. This year, he was selected by the Hall of Fame's senior committee.
Guy, who serves as Director of the M-Club and Community Relations at Southern Miss, is the first punter to be named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Guy played for the Raiders from 1973-1986. He was the first punter to ever be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft with the 23rd pick overall. While with the Raiders, the team won three Super Bowls.
Guy will be officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 2.