Best Pro Football Players In Mississippi History; Part Nine: Kickers
This is the final installment in this series about the greatest pro football players in Mississippi history. The series has featured every position on the field and everyone has had a Hall of Famer or should be in the Hall of Fame.
In the last piece we will see some players that were missed in other posts and we will look at great special team players from Mississippi. The special team players from Mississippi also contain some great players.
So here is our final look at players from Mississippi who have had great careers in pro football. Starting with the players missed then special team players.
John “Kayo” Dottley: Chicago Bears via Ole Miss Rebels
John Dottley was one of the greatest players in Ole Miss history. Dottley was the first Rebel to rush for 1,000 yards. He did it twice in 1949 and 1950.
Dottley led the nation in rushing and the SEC in scoring in 1949 and was named All-American in 49’ as well. He was also named All-SEC in 1949 and 1950.
The Chicago Bears drafted Dottley in the second round with the 24th overall pick in 1950. Dottley played for the Bears for three seasons and was named to one Pro Bowl in 1951.
Dottley was named to the Ole Miss team of the Century. He was named to the Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Mississippi Sports hall of Fame in 1971.
Parker Hall was a star on both sides of the ball for Ole Miss. Hall led the nation in scoring and was second in interceptions in 1938. He was also first team All-SEC in 1938 as well.
The Cleveland Rams drafted Hall in the first round with the 3rd overall pick in 1939. Hall is considered the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 100 passes in a season.
In 1939, Hall was named NFL Player of the Year and NFL Rookie of the Year. Hall’s rookie season saw him named first team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl.
Hall would see his pro football career cut short as he severed in the military because of World War II. He is also a member of the College Football, Ole Miss, and Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Ode Burrell: Houston Oilers via Mississippi State Bulldogs
Ode Burrell is considered a Mississippi State great during his short time in Starkville. Burrell was a standout offensively, defensively, and special teams.
In 1963, Burrell was named first team All-SEC and in 1964 was drafted in the third round by the Green Bay Packers. He instead chose to play for the Houston Oilers who drafted him in the fourth round with the 30th overall pick.
Burrell played pro football for six seasons and was named AFL All-Star in 1965. After his playing career was over Burrell was named to the Mississippi State Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Hoyle Granger: Houston Oilers via Mississippi State Bulldogs
Hoyle Granger was a three time letter winner and a three time All-SEC running back at Mississippi State. When he left the Bulldogs he was third on the all time rushing list.
The Houston Oilers selected Granger with the first pick of the fifth round. Granger played seven seasons as a pro football player.
Granger played most of his career for the Oilers but did play one season in New Orleans. He was a two time AFL All-Star in both 1967 and 1968.
Granger was elected in to the Mississippi State Hall of Fame in 2008.
Jim Poole: New York Giants via Ole Miss Rebels
Jim Poole played at Ole Miss with his brothers Ray and Barney. All three were stand out football players for the Rebels.
Jim was the oldest of the Poole brothers all of whom went on to play in the NFL along with Cousin Oliver Poole. Jim Poole has the distinction of being the first player ever drafted out of Ole Miss.
In 1937, the New York Giants drafted Poole in the seventh round with the 64th overall pick. Poole would play seven years in pro football.
Poole would leave pro football for three years to fight in World War II. During his years as a player Poole was named to three Pro Bowls from 1938-40 and was selected twice All-Pro in 1939 and 1946.
After playing football, Poole would come back to Ole Miss to coach until he retired. Poole was a charter member of the Ole Miss Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 1965.
George Blair: San Diego Chargers via Ole Miss Rebels
George Blair was a standout defensive back and kicker for the Ole Miss Rebels. Blair was a part two of Johnny Vaught’s National Championship teams at Ole Miss in 1959-60.
Blair was drafted in 1960 by the New York Giants in the sixth round with the 72nd overall pick. Blair decided to play for the San Diego Chargers of the AFL instead.
As a kicker, Blair would make one AFL All-Star appearance in 1961 and was part of the 1963 AFL championship team for the Chargers.
Roell Preston: Green Bay Packers via Ole Miss Rebels
Roell Preston was a standout wide receiver for the Ole Miss Rebels. He would play in the NFL for five seasons for five different teams.
When Preston got a chance to shine, he made the most of it as a kick returner for the Green Bay Packers. In 1998, while on his second stint in Green Bay, Preston made the only Pro Bowl of his career as a kick returner.
Jerrel Wilson was a standout punter at Southern Miss. While with the Golden Eagles Wilson’s high, booming punts that arched down field earned him the nickname “Thunder Foot”.
Wilson was drafted in 1963 in the 11th round with the 88th overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs. He would lead the league with a 72-yard punt his rookie year and had four punts over 70 yards in his career.
For 15 seasons, Wilson would punt for the Chiefs and would be a backup running back. Wilson was named to three Pro Bowls from 1970-72 and was an All-AFL in 1968.
Wilson was named to the All-AFL team in 1970 and was named to the Kansas City Chiefs Hall of Fame in 1988.
Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram once said "Jerrel Wilson made other people aware of how important the kicking game was at a time when special times were not given special consideration.
"I'm prejudiced, but he's the best punter I ever saw. He'll go down in history as the best kicker in the NFL."
Ray Guy: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders via Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Jerrel Wilson might have company as the best kicker in NFL history. The company would come from his alma mater as well.
Ray Guy still owns the Southern Mississippi career record for highest average for a game, season and career. Guy also holds the record for the longest field goal in Golden Eagles history with a 61 yard field goal against Utah State in 1972.
A complete player, Guy still is tied for the record for most interceptions in a season at USM with eight in 1972. The same season he would set the record for longest punt which was 93 yards against Ole Miss.
Guy was selected first team All-American 1972 and was named first team All South Independent in 1970-72. The Oakland Raiders made Guy the only punter ever taken in the first round in 1973 with the 23rd overall pick.
In an outstanding career, Guy was named a Pro Bowler seven times from 1973-78 and again 1980 in his 13 years all with the Raiders. Guy would play in 207 consecutive games and had 619 straight punts without a block.
Guy led the NFL in punting three times, 210 punts inside the 20-yard line (not counting his first three seasons, when the NFL did not keep track of this stat), with just 128 touchbacks.
Guy would never have a punt returned for a touchdown his whole career. He would be a first team All Pro six times from 1973-78 and was a three time Super Bowl champion.
After his career, Guy was the first to have his number retired by USM. He is a member of the USM Hall of Fame, Mississippi and Georgia Hall of Fame.
He was named to the NFL All 1970’s team and the NFL 75th Anniversary team. Guy was named to the College Football Hall of Fame as well.
Guy was named to the USM Team of the Century and every year in college football the best punter receives the “Ray Guy” Award.
Special teams players do not normally get in any Hall of Fame but if any special team players do its Jerrel Wilson and Ray Guy. The two Southern Miss kicking standouts deserve to be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
This concludes our look at great players from Mississippi. Some who did not make our list included players who made great plays in the NFL.
One was Lawrence Pillers, who sacked Danny White after the Montana-to-Clark “Catch” to preserve the 49ers trip to the Super Bowl.
Another was D.D. Lewis, who was the first to say the hole in the old Texas Stadium was so that “God could look down on his favorite team.”
I hope everyone had as much fun reading this series as I did writing it. I hope everyone thought each part was great and you learned something you did not know in each one.
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