Sunday, February 2, 2014
NEW YORK (AP) — The hang time is over for Ray Guy. The longtime punter for the Oakland Raiders is all by himself once again.
After waiting 23 years, Guy is the first punter elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Good things are worth waiting for," Guy said Saturday night after being elected along with six other players. "It's just a matter of time when it will show up. And I knew it would, sooner or later. It had to, whether it was me or somebody down the road. But sooner or later, it had to show up, because that is a part of a football game."
Defensive end Michael Strahan, receiver Andre Reed, defensive back Aeneas Williams and defensive end Claude Humphrey also were part of the class of 2014. Two first-time eligible players, linebacker Derrick Brooks and offensive tackle Walter Jones, were selected.
The announcement was made at the NFL Honors award show, less than 24 hours before the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in the first Super Bowl.
Among the finalists who didn't get in were two with ties to the Indianapolis Colts and current Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning — coach Tony Dungy and receiver Marvin Harrison.
Each incoming Hall of Famer walked to the stage and was announced individually. Strahan, who helped the Giants make two Super Bowls, got a huge cheer from the home crowd.
Induction will be on Aug. 1 in Canton, Ohio.
Guy turned the punting job into a defensive weapon after he became the first player at his position to be selected in the first round of the draft in 1973. He made "hang time" part of the football vernacular while playing all of his 207 games in 14 seasons with the Raiders.
The Southern Mississippi product averaged 42.4 yards for his career. Only three of his 1,049 punts were blocked, and he had 209 punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
"It's gratifying to now see a punter go into the Hall of Fame," Guy said, who joins Jan Stenerud as the only kickers enshrined . "Whether it was me or somebody else, they needed representation in that position."
Brooks was the cornerstone of a Bucs defense that led the league in 2002 and '05, and the NFC five times. He was The Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year when Tampa Bay won its only Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
The linebacker never missed a game in his 14 seasons and averaged a remarkable 146 tackles. Six of his 25 interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including a league-record three in '02.
Seattle certainly got a winner when it moved up to the No. 6 spot in the 1997 draft to take Jones. He immediately provided blindside protection for Warren Moon and quickly became the first Seahawks lineman to earn a Pro Bowl spot. He was one of the chief road graders who helped Shaun Alexander rush for 266 yards in a 2001 game — the fourth-highest total in NFL history — and then rush for a team-record 1,880 yards and 28 TDs in his MVP season in 2005.
"Coming into the league all I wanted to do was get here, and ... say I could play this game," Jones said. "For me to be here now, and for my team that I started with and finished with, to be here in the Super Bowl is just like the icing on the cake."
Strahan set the NFL record for sacks in a single season, getting 22½ in 2001. The one most people remember is the record-setter in the final game of the regular season, when Green Bay's Brett Favre seemed to lay down on a play late in the game.
While there is controversy about that play, the gap-toothed Strahan was one of the top two-way defensive ends. Younger teammates said he taught them how to work to become NFL players, and he walked away from the NFL after winning the Super Bowl in February 2008.
"It's hard to find guys with everything, but this guy had everything . size, speed, power, toughness, endurance, motor, smarts, leadership, heart, love for the game, but what I admired most about Michael was his pride," Giants general Jerry Reese said. "No matter what the circumstances were, when he walked out on that field on Sunday, he was going to give it ALL to you. There aren't many guys who can say that."
Reed came out of little Kutztown (Pa.) University and played his first 15 seasons with Buffalo, getting to four Super Bowls, but never winning one. His final season was with Washington. His 951 career receptions are third in league history, highlighted by nine consecutive seasons of 50-plus catches.
Long before people spoke about yards after the catch, Reed was doing it. He finished with 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns.
"Having to wait this long for him is a sin, but the bottom line is he's in and that's what counts," former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly said of Reed's nine-year wait to get into the Hall.
A walk-on at Southern University, Williams was a shutdown cornerback in his 14 NFL seasons, the first 10 with the Cardinals and the last four with the Rams. He had 55 career interceptions, getting at least one in every season except his last. He had five or more in picks in six seasons, with nine being his best in 1994.
Williams spent his last four seasons with St. Louis. He started at cornerback for the Rams in the 2001 Super Bowl and played safety in his final two seasons.
The Hall of Fame doors finally opened for Humphrey on his 28th year of eligibility and his fifth as a finalist. The durable six-time Pro Bowl pick had 122 career sacks in 14 seasons with the Falcons and Eagles, who acquired him after a brief retirement in the 1978 season.
"I never really gave up hope," said Humphrey, whose only regret was his wife died in July and didn't get to see his election. "I always figured there was a place for me here."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
AP Sports Writers Tim Booth and Dennis Waszak Jr., and Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this story.