More than 70 high school football punters, place kickers and long-snappers from as far away as Indiana and Ohio traveled to Lakeside High School's Panther Stadium this past week for a chance to learn from one of the game's best.
Ray Guy, a Thomson native and 14-year veteran as an NFL punter for the Oakland Raiders, is widely accepted as the best punter the game has ever seen. After spending the Christmas holiday with his family in Thomson, Guy brought his kicking academy to Lakeside this past week. The two-day camp began a winter tour that will take him and his 10-12 member crew across the nation with stops in Jacksonville, Texas, Mississippi, Arizona and eventually California.
"We've been doing it for 14 years now," Guy said during a lunch break on Thursday. "We started around here at ARC. Then we did a couple at Westside, and now we're out here. They've got a great facility here, and the coaches have been great."
Among the several dozen participants at the camp were a few young Lakeside kickers and punters. Freshman Justin Pitock is a rookie at field goal attempts, but he said he's already seen improvement in his game after two days at the camp.
"I just started last year as a good soccer player. I've never kicked field goals before until I came out here and got some instruction on it," he said. "Yesterday I hit a 40-yarder."
While most of the participants were looking to improve on their kicking and punting skills, the boys in the trenches benefited as well. Guy said he started a long-snapping academy to give instruction on one of the most important but forgotten aspects of punting.
"It doesn't matter how good you are if you don't have a good center to snap the ball to you," Guy said.
Lakeside sophomore Drew Gaddy was one of those potential long-snappers in attendance at the camp.
"I learned something about your stance and how to use your body," he said. "I snapped for varsity last year at the end of the season, but I knew I needed to get better."
While the camp concentrated on individual efforts, Lakeside football coach Randy Hill said his football team will benefit greatly from what his players have learned.
"The game of football has so many different parts to it," he said. "It's good when you can send kids to a camp where they can get instruction on long-snapping and punting and kicking and they can carry that back to the other guys on the team and it helps everyone."
Guy's kicking camp won't return to Georgia until his summer tour makes a stop at The Lovett School in Atlanta on July 20-21.
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