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Ray Guy Kicking Camp brings out 75 participants at Thomson High School

Although it's been years since Thomson's Ray Guy played with the NFL's Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, his work schedule is as hectic now as it was back then.

He completed a two-day football kicking camp last Friday at Thomson High School that drew 75 participants from throughout the Southeast. Guy then immediately drove to Atlanta to catch a flight from Hartsville-Jackson Airport to Dallas for another two-day kicking camp this past weekend.

Guy, who is heralded as the greatest punter in NFL history, has two more camps slated for this week - one in Jacksonville, Fla. and the other in Hattiesburg, Ms.

And then on top of all of that, Guy recently accepted a new job at his college alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, as the new special projects manager. The new job involves raising a large sum of money between now and 2010 when USM celebrates its Centennial.

"I really don't have to do anything with the new job except run my mouth," said Guy during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror prior to working with youngsters at the Thomson High School football practice field last Thursday. "That's something I do real well."

Those are just a few of the things going on in the life of Guy these days.

Of course, just around the corner is the possibility that he finally may be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame - something that has eluded him since becoming eligible for such an honor several years ago. The final 15 cut for nominees to the shrine in Canton, Ohio, doesn't take place until the middle of this month.

"I used to think about what it would mean to be selected to the Hall of Fame, but now I don't even think about it," lamented Guy. "I look at it like this - if it happens, it would be great, but if it doesn't, that's fine, too."

Aside from those things, Guy also is preparing for another change in his life - moving away from the town that he calls home - Thomson.

That's expected to take place this summer when he and his wife, Beverly, a teacher at Thomson High School and their daughter, Amber, now a freshman in college, move to Hattiesburg. Mrs. Guy will finish out the school year before the move from Thomson to Hattiesburg.

"Hattiesburg is like our second home and now that I've accepted the job with the university, it will be better for me to live there," said Guy. "I will miss Thomson very much. I will always consider Thomson my real home. Really and truly though, I'm never around here. I'm always gone somewhere."

He says he will stay in contact with family and friends that he leaves behind in Thomson, but looks forward to renewing his relationship with lots of friends in Hattiesburg.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them again and working closely with the university president and other officials there on the Centennial project," added Guy, who enjoyed a 14-year career in the NFL.

Guy, who already is one of 26 semifinalists for possible induction into this year's NFL Hall of Fame, said he is busy also working with a university campaign to lure 20,000 new alumni members by 2010.

"I guess you could say I'm a little busy with a handful of projects right now," said Guy, with a laugh. "Even though it's tiring, I'm having fun."

One of the things he enjoys as much as anything in his life is helping youngsters develop their talents with various kicking and punting skills on the gridiron.

"I love to teach children how to become better at kicking and punting," said Guy. "I don't complicate it and neither do any of our kicking instructors. We make it as simple as we can to understand. We try to provide that personal individualized training at these camps. It all boils down to basics and repetition."

The art of kicking and punting isn't something that can be learned at one time.

It takes time - lots of time, noted Guy, a former seven-time Pro Bowler, whose Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders went on to win three Super Bowl Championships.

"The ideal age for getting started is 6 and 7," said Guy. "I don't think that's too young at all. Kids can grasp those concepts at that age. Another big plus working with kids that age is that it's easy to teach them because they haven't started forming any bad habits like older kids."

The latter helped several of the youngsters during last week's Ray Guy Kicking Academy camp.

"According to several of them, our staff helped them with some of the bad habits they had formed, which is exactly what this camp is designed to do - make kickers and punters better at what they do on the football field," said Guy. "It's all about learning the proper way. It's all about learning the right way and staying with it with lots of practice. We enjoy every kid we teach."

One of those benefiting from last week's kicking camp was Thomson's Clay Blasingame.

"I learned a lot of things from attending the camp," said Blasingame. "I had been doing some things wrong in the way I punted the ball. The camp taught me the correct way."

One of the instructors at the camp was Paul Leroy, Guy's former head football coach at Thomson High School, where he was a star quarterback and punter.

"We both get a lot of pleasure out of being around all of these participants and helping them to develop their kicking skills," said Leroy, who also serves as a member of the McDuffie County Board of Education. "It's a great thing for these young boys."

Brett Upson, the starting junior punter at Vanderbilt University, knows for a fact that the Ray Guy Kicking Academy can be beneficial. For several years, the 20-year-old Spalding County High School football star from Griffin, Ga., attended such a kicking camp and received valuable pointers.

"It teaches you the fundamentals to better yourself as a kicker or a punter," said Upson, who averaged 39.6 yards per punt this past season for the Commodores. "I'd recommend any kid taking this camp."

Upson worked as one of the instructors during the camp put on in Thomson last week.

Web posted on Thursday, January 03, 2008

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