The man behind one of the most famed kicks in NFL history has passed away.
Tom Dempsey, who was born without toes on his right foot and fingers on his right hand, was a record-setting kicker in the NFL and a beloved legend of the New Orleans Saints died on Saturday night.
Dempsey, who had Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, died at the age of 73 due to complications from COVID-19. According to reports by NOLA.com, Dempsey is one of 15 residents at New Orleans’ Lambeth House retirement home to die after contracting the disease.
“Our thoughts and prayers are extended to Carlene and the entire Dempsey family on the passing of their dear Tom,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “The New Orleans Saints family is deeply saddened and heartbroken at this most difficult time. Tom’s life spoke directly to the power of the human spirit and exemplified his resolute determination to not allow setbacks to impede following his dreams and aspirations. He exemplified the same fight and fortitude in recent years as he battled valiantly against illnesses but never wavered and kept his trademark sense of humor. He holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Saints family.”
Dempsey was signed by the Saints in 1969 as an undrafted kicker out of Palomar College. The Milwaukee, Wis., native quickly proved he belonged in the NFL as he was named to the Pro Bowl and earned first-team All-Pro honors as a rookie.
The following season is when Dempsey made NFL history.
In a game held at old Tulane Stadium on Nov. 8, 1970, Dempsey booted a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions. The kick was the longest field goal in league history, surpassing the old record by seven yards, and stood until it was equaled by Jason Elam in 1998, by Sebastian Janikowski in 2011 and David Akers in 2012. Dempsey’s record was finally surpassed by Matt Prater in 2013.
Dempsey played 11 seasons in the NFL but only his first two with the Saints. He would go on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Buffalo Bills. Dempsey made 159 field goals (61.6 percent field goal percentage) and 252 extra points (89.4 percent) in his career.