Sad news emerged from the sports world on Thursday, when the University of Southern Mississippi announced that renowned alumnus and NFL kicking great Ray Guy passed away at the age of 72.
According to ESPN.com, Guy's death came after a lengthy illness for which he had been under the care of a hospice organization in Hattiesburg.
Having initially gained notoriety as the first punter to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft, Guy was also the first to play that position to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Guy was a member of three Super Bowl-winning teams -- the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, respectively -- and also earned invitations to the Pro Bowl on seven different occasions and snagged three First-Team All-Pro designations, as Fox News noted.
Before even reaching the ranks of professional football, Guy was already well-known as a standout athlete at Southern Mississippi as both a defensive back and a punter for the Golden Eagles.
In addition to those roles, Guy was also a record-breaking field goal kicker and among the finest baseball pitchers the university ever saw, notching one of only six no-hitters in school history and being drafted into the pros on three occasions.
It was, however, his time in the NFL that put Guy permanently into the consciousness of sports fans everywhere, and he was considered by many to be perhaps the greatest punter in league history.
Guy's former coach, NFL legend John Madden, said during the punter's Hall of Fame induction ceremony back in 2014, "The first time I laid eyes on him is when we first brought him to practice. And he started to punt, and he punted the longest, highest footballs that I had ever seen."
"And I said, 'OK, that's enough.' You know, I didn't want to tire his leg out or have him get injured," Madden continued. "And he said, 'Coach, I'm just warming up.' And I thought, 'Holy moly, just warning up?' And I knew right then, at that moment, that he was going to be special."
Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter issued a statement in the wake of the gridiron legend's death, noting, according to CBS Sports, "Fittingly, much was written when Ray Guy was enshrined in Canton about how his election as the first true punter created a 'full roster' of players" to receive the honor. "Too often overlooked, however, was the man behind his powerful right leg."
"Ray was a warm, humble Southern gentleman who represented the game, the Raiders organization and the Hall of Fame with dignity and glass at all times," Porter added. "A truly gifted athlete, he could have been a star in Major League Baseball or pro basketball. Fans of the NFL thank Ray for choosing to focus on football."
In addition to the legions of sports fans around the world who will continue to honor Guy's achievements, his memory will continue to live on through future winners of the NCAA's Ray Guy Award, created back in 2000 to acknowledge the most outstanding punter in all of college football – a fitting legacy, indeed.