What was Ray Guy’s retirement age? Pro punter's career and family life

Bruno Cooke November 4, 2022
What was Ray Guy’s retirement age? Pro punter's career and family life
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Pro Football Hall of Famer Ray Guy has died, age 72, following a “lengthy illness,” more than three decades after his retirement from the sport.

The University of Southern Mississippi shared the news on November 3, 2022, describing him as the “greatest punter of all time.”

He took the “final step of his football journey,” Southern Miss adds, upon election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Guy played football professionally in the 1970s and 1980s, after leading Thomson High School to the Georgia Class A state football championships in the late 1960s. Here’s what we know about the rest of his career.

Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Where did Ray Guy go to school and which university did he play for?

Guy attended Thomson High School in Thomson, Georgia. He was a four-sport star there.

On the football field, he played quarterback, safety, linebacker and tailback. He also kicked and punted. 

In 1967 and 1968, he led his high school to the Georgia Class A state football championships, averaging almost 50 yards per punt in the latter.

He was also a competent basketball player and baseball pitcher, but football was his calling. Ray Guy enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in 1969, and soon joined the Southern Miss Golden Eagles as a punter and placekicker.

How he earned the ‘greatest punter of all time’ moniker

Guy was the first ever punter selected in the first round in the NFL Draft. 

He’d made a name for himself in 1972 and 1973 with a record-breaking 61-yard field goal – during a snowstorm in Utah, no less – and a 93-yard punt during a game against the University of Mississippi.

The Oakland Raiders selected him as the 23rd pick in the 1973 Draft. Over the course of a 14-year career with the Raiders, Ray Guy averaged 42.4 yards per kick. In many ways, writes ESPN, he “revolutionized the position.”

His kicks went so high, the outlet continues, that one “hit the Superdome scoreboard 90 feet above the field,” which helped popularize the phrase “hang time.”

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

What was Ray Guy’s age at retirement, and why and when did he leave the sport?

Guy retired Tuesday, June 2, 1987, citing an “accumulation of injuries,” United Press International (UPI) reported at the time.

He punted 1,049 times, for a total of 44,493 yards – then the third highest total ever.

When he retired in the summer of 1987, Ray Guy was 37 years old. He finished his career with 619 consecutive punts without a block. Ray and his ex-wife (as described by The Guardian) Beverly, whom HITC writes was “supportive of her husband throughout his career,” had two children together.

Their names are Ryan and Amber Guy; Ray and their mother appear to have divorced some time after 2011, the year in which they filed for bankruptcy.

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He was a finalist for induction into the Hall of Fame seven times

Starting in 1992, he made it to the final few half a dozen times without being voted in. On other occasions, he didn’t even make it that far.

“That kind of bothered me,” The Guardian quotes him as saying in 2014, “because they were saying that’s not a position, it doesn’t take an athlete to do that, it’s not important.” 

“That’s what really got under my skin. It wasn’t so much whether I did or didn’t. I wish somebody had. It was just knowing that they didn’t care. That’s what kind of frosted me a little bit.”

“I was a good athlete,” he said during his Hall of Fame induction speech, when it finally came. “And could have been a Major League pitcher or an NBA basketball player, but I knew God had something special for me.”

“Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny, and I never looked back or questioned my decision.”

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.