49ers beat writer Cam Inman recently spoke to John Madden and asked him about punter Ray Guy, who will be inducted Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I used small portions of what Madden said in a story which ran in Friday’s Bay Area news Group papers and is currently posted on the insidebayarea.com Web site.
Madden will be the presenter for Guy prior to his induction. Here are Madden’s thoughts on Guy:
On if he has a favorite punt or best memory:
“Best memory I have was when I first saw him. The first time he punted in practice up at Santa Rosa, I didn’t want him to wear his leg out and kick too much. He kicked some and they were good. I said, ‘That’s enough, I don’t want you to tire your leg out.’ He said, ‘Coach I haven’t even started yet. I’m warming up.’ It wasn’t a smart ass thing. He was in warm-up and we were all watching. A couple kicks later, he said he was ready to go.
“I never heard anything like the sound and never seen anything like the height and distance. They say about Ray Guy’s responsibility for hang time, but you know what it was, he kicked so long no one had ever seen anything like that. All pundits would say he’s going to outkick coverage. I said, (B.S.), if he outkicks the coverage, we’re going to go out and get new cover guys.’ Then I started timing how long the ball was in the air, and if you cover guys can’t get down there in that time, you can’t play for us. I wasn’t trying to get hang time there; I was trying to get their speed down to see how fast you could get there. I was taking it off Ray Guy and putting it on them. He was so impressive that first day, like if get a guy that can hit a golf ball and it sounds different than yours does, his ball sounded different.
In the same practice he gets in there at strong safety. In those days we practiced in pads . There he is at safety. I told him to get the hell out of there. He walks off the field with his head down. After practice he walks up to me and said, ‘When Ron Wolf signed me, he told me I could play safety too.’ I said this guy is too good and I’m not going to have this be an ongoing thing. So I said Ron Wolf lied, and I kept walking. We never discussed it again. That’s what I wanted.”
Did Wolf really lie?
“No. Ron Wolf probably never told a lie in his life. There was no way I was going to let him play safety. I had Tatum, Atkinson, Phillips …
On using a first-round pick:
“That was our opportunity to get the best player at his position, and not only that, but the best player ever at his position. That was a no brainer. We didn’t have one person against that.
On if a punter could be accepted a first-round pick in today’s era:
“He was a once in a lifetime guy, and there weren’t as many pundits then. He was an all-American. He played in the college all-star game. It wasn’t like he was a guy from Southern Mississippi that no one knew about. He was something special from the day he walked in.”
On a punter being enshrined:
They were the last position to be a fulltime position … Now that that’s broken through (at the Hall of Fame), any position. There’s not a position that’s not represented.”