Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland
Recent news that Ray Guy is one of two senior finalists for selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame rates right at the top of this list: Better late than never.

Guy, the greatest punter in the history, will still need 80 per cent of the votes when the selection committee meets Super Bowl week. He has gotten this far six times before and not been selected, which is silly and a clear bias against punters.

The measuring stick for Hall of Famers is supposedly this: Were they the elite players at their position during their era? Guy is the elite player at his position of all eras. He changed the way people looked at punters, just as the changed the field position of the Oakland Raiders so many times. Al Davis drafted Guy in the first round and he repaid Davis by helping him win three Super Bowls.

When the NFL picked an all-time All-Pro football team on its 75th anniversary, Guy was on it.

Jimmie Giles, recently inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, remembers a game his rookie season with the Houston Oilers against the Raiders.

"I've never seen anything like it: Ray was kicking it up into the clouds and so far," Giles said. "After the game Bum Phillips (then the Oilers head coach) had all the balls confiscated. He thought for sure the balls Ray was kicking had helium in them.

Continued Giles, "Ray Guy was the best there ever was at what he did. What else do you need to say?"

I would say this: Guy is one of four Mississippi Sports Hall of Famers who deserve to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but are not.

Giles, the great tight end of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is one. Ozzie Newsome, a Hall of Fame tight end now the General Manager of the Baltimore Ravens told me this: "There are seven tight ends in the Hall of Fame and Jimmie was as good as any of us. He belongs."

Hall of Fame defensive lineman Richard Dent said his Chicago Bears always faced the Bucs twice a year and that there entire defensive gameplan was simply this: "Stop Jimmie Giles and you've stopped Tampa Bay."

Said Dent, "When you say that about a player, he's a Hall of Famer."

The late Kent Hull, who helped the Buffalo Bills to four Super Bowls, deserves Hall of Fame status. "People talk all the time about Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, but Kent made us go," said Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy. "He was our leader. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."

Which brings me to Charlie Conerly, Chunkin' Charlie, of the New York football Giants, the original Marlboro Man and the most modest football hero I ever met. He was a rookie of the year and two-time Pro Bowler who helped the Giants to three championship games, including a 47-7 victory over the Bears in 1956.

Years ago, I called several of the voters to ask why Conerly had never gotten in. Their responses were astounding.

Said the late, great Furman Bisher of the Atlanta Journal, "He is in, isn't he? Are you telling me Charlie Conerly isn't in the Hall of Fame?"

And the legendary Jim Murray of Los Angeles Times: "I thought Charlie was in. Hell, we ought not have a Hall of Fame if Charlie Conerly's not in it."

But, all to unfortunately, we do.

Rick Cleveland is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Reach him at rcleveland@msfame.com.