If the Raiders hadn't been stacked at other positions, the first pure punter to have his bust bronzed in Canton, Ohio, might never have worn silver and black.
Ron Wolf, one of Al Davis' chief personnel men at the time, recalls the selection of Ray Guy with the 23rd pick of the 1973 NFL draft as difficult, mainly because guard Joe DeLamielleure of Michigan State had the look of a future Hall of Famer.
"There was a long discussion, and I'm not sure what swung it. I think more than anything else, it was about field position," said Wolf.
That discourse with Davis led to a selection of a punter out of Southern Mississippi that defied convention and, with this enshrinement class, became historic. When Guy goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame via the veterans committee on Saturday, he will become the 22nd player in franchise history to be so honored -- and finally the league's first punter.
DeLamielleure, who went to the Buffalo Bills three picks later, first heard two years after the draft the story of being passed over for a punter (the Raiders had a future Hall of Famer at guard in Gene Upshaw). In New Orleans for the Pro Bowl, DeLamielleure and his wife entered a packed restaurant and saw Davis, who was dining with his wife, Carole.
Davis motioned for DeLamielleure to stop by the table, and told him how he almost became a Raider.
If Davis was hoping to get a rise out of DeLamielleure, he instead got validation.
"I said, 'Mr. Davis, you made the right choice,' " DeLamielleure said when contacted by phone this week. "I said, 'You'll never see a right guard win a game, but I saw Ray Guy win a lot of games for you. Good pick.' "
Former Raiders coach John Madden remembers Guy's selection as a slam dunk.
"That was our opportunity to get the best player at his position, and not only that, but the best player ever at his position," Madden said. "We didn't have one person against that."
The draft selection came as a shock to Guy, who was recovering from a foot injury and hadn't heard anything from the Raiders until the club dispatched scout Ken LaRue to Hattiesburg, Miss., for a visit three days before the draft.
"That was the first time I knew the Raiders were interested in me," said Guy, who was also a standout free safety and hoped to continue playing defense in the NFL.
At his first training camp in Santa Rosa, Guy got off several punts before Madden tried to shut him down in order to keep him fresh. Guy replied he was only warming up. Then the real show began.
"I had never heard anything like the sound and never seen anything like the height and distance," Madden said. "It's like when a guy hits a golf ball and it sounds different than yours. His ball sounded different."
The first time Guy stepped on the field in the defensive backfield at a Raiders practice, Madden ordered him to the sidelines, unwilling to risk such an explosive right leg when he already had Jack Tatum, George Atkinson and Charles Phillips at safety.
Having handled all the punting and kicking duties at Southern Miss in addition to intercepting 18 passes in three years as a safety, Guy conceded in a conference call that being a specialist was a difficult adjustment.
"I had to get that mentality of being a starting safety and hitting people out of my mind and then focus on being a punter," Guy said.
Guy desperately wanted teammates to know he was a football player in every sense.
"I know a lot of them were thinking, 'What is Al doing? He drafted a punter as the No. 1 draft choice? How is that going to help?' " Guy said. "After the first day, it was obvious I was more than a punter. I was a team player in every sense."
When Guy was selected, Atkinson said, "We're like, 'What's with that pick?' First-round draft picks were skill position guys, pass rushers or linemen."
Then Atkinson dropped back for the first time to field a Guy punt, and felt different.
"I'd caught all the best punters in the NFL, and his were harder to handle because they fell harder and with more force," Atkinson said.
Hall of Fame cornerback Willie Brown assumed Guy was selected as a safety who would also do the punting.
"But once I saw him punt, I thought, 'Oh, boy, we've got another weapon,' " Brown said. "We knew the opponent would always be on the other side of the 50-yard line, and there was a good chance they'd be back at the 10 or 15."
Despite being a finalist seven times as a modern era candidate for the Hall of Fame, Guy was never elected. Last August, he was a seniors nominee, and he was elected Feb. 1.
DeLamielleure, voted into the Hall of Fame in 2003, spoke on Guy's behalf last August to the seniors committee.
"I didn't have a vote, but I talked to the voters about why he should be in," DeLamielleure said. "He got picked before me, and he should have been in the Hall of Fame before me."
TV: 4 p.m., ESPN2
Inductees: LB Derrick Brooks, P Ray Guy, DE Claude Humphrey, OT Walter Jones, WR Andre Reed, DE Michael Strahan, CB/S Aeneas Williams
RAY GUY FILE