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Hall of Fame Class of 2014: Ray Guy hit new heights as punter

In advance of Saturday night's Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony (7 p.m. ET on NFL Network), NFL Media historian Elliot Harrison is taking a closer look at the seven members of the Class of 2014. Below you'll find five intriguing tidbits about Ray Guy, the first pure punter to make it to Canton.

1) Rarefied air

You might have heard that Guy was the first punter to ever be drafted in the first round, but he's not the only one. Six years after Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis tapped Guy with the 23rd overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft, the Saints selected Texas punter Russell Erxleben 11th overall -- 12 spots higher than Guy.

Of course, it's not like that started a trend. No punter has gone in the first round since; in the 78-year history of the draft, actually, just four punters have been taken in the second round and 14 have been taken in the third.

2) Committed to excellence

Guy made the Hall of Fame because he was an outstanding punter -- he earned Pro Bowl nods in seven of his first eight seasons in the league -- but the fact is, he was certainly a cog in one damn impressive engine. In his 14 years with the Raiders, the club had exactly one losing season, a 7-9 effort in 1981 -- and even that barely qualified as such. No punter has more Super Bowl rings than Guy's three.

3) More than just a foot

Make fun of punters all you want, or argue that kicking specialists aren't "athletes," but trust me when I tell you that Guy made one of the most athletic plays you will ever see on a football field in Super Bowl XVIII.

Early in the game, with one of the largest blowouts in Super Bowl history still in its infancy, Guy saved his team from giving up a quick touchdown when he leaped in the air to snag an errant deep snap. Despite being a 34-year-old punter, Guy got up and palmed the ball with one hand, then made the punt. Bear in mind that this was not a jump ball; rather, it was more like a high throw over the middle. Check out Guy's clutch snag in the video clip just above.

4) Golden Eagle rising

Guy is the first product of Southern Mississippi to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and while the school might not be considered a football factory, more than 100 former Golden Eagles have played in the NFL over the years.

Another memorable Southern Miss alumnus from Guy's time: running back Sammy Winder, who actually played against Guy many times as a member of the Denver Broncos. Winder rushed for 1,153 yards in 1984, his best season. Of course, neither Winder nor Guy were the last Golden Eagle to make a mark on the NFL. You might have heard of another ... some guy named Brett Favre.

5) Beating a path for greatness

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Ray Guy Through the Years

Take a look at some of the best photos of Ray Guy during his time in the NFL and since he's retired.

John Madden has called Guy the "best punter to ever punt a football," which is somewhat redundant, but hey, the legendary broadcaster, Hall of Famer and former Raiders coach is allowed to say what he wants. Guy led the NFL in punting during three of the six years he played for Madden.

That said, it is interesting to note that Guy might not be the top punter in franchise history. While the footballs have changed, and while an increased emphasis on specialization across the league has somewhat diminished Guy's numbers, there can be no denying the greatness of Shane Lechler, who was with the Raiders from 2000 to 2012. The boomer with a mortar for a leg has the highest gross punting average of all time: 47.6 yards per punt. In case you were wondering, Guy comes in tied for 59th (42.4).

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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